War-ravaged Pak will be Obama's most difficult test: NYT

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New York, Nov 24 : US President-elect Barack Obama's most difficult test would be Pakistan, a country with 170 million people and up to 60 nuclear weapons, WHICH may be collapsing and where terror is increasing by the day, journalists being shot dead and diplomats kidnapped, said an article in the New York Times.

It said that life for journalists have been become scary, even as Peshawar is partly controlled by the Taliban.

"Reporting in Pakistan is scarier than it has ever been. The major city of Peshawar is now controlled in part by the Taliban, and this month alone in the area an American aid worker was shot dead, an Iranian diplomat kidnapped, a Japanese journalist shot and American humvees stolen from a NATO convoy to Afghanistan," said the paper.

"Pakistanis have never been so gloomy. Some worry that militants, nurtured by illiteracy and a failed education system, will overrun the country or that the nation will break apart. It's very likely that the next major terror attack in the West is being planned by extremists here in Pakistan. There is real fear about the future," notes Ahmed Rashid, whose excellent new book on Pakistan and Afghanistan is appropriately titled "Descent Into Chaos."

The US has squandered more than 10 billion dollars on Pakistan since 9/11, and Pakistani intelligence agencies seem to have rerouted some of that to Taliban extremists. American forces periodically strike militants in the tribal areas, but people from those areas overwhelmingly tell me that these strikes just antagonize tribal leaders and make them more supportive of the Taliban.

According to the paper, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari seems overwhelmed by the challenges and locked in the past. Incredibly, he has just chosen for his new cabinet two men who would fit fine in a Taliban government. One new cabinet member, Israr Ullah Zehri, defended the torture-murder of five women and girls who were buried alive (three girls wanted to choose their own husbands, and two women tried to protect them). "These are centuries-old traditions, and I will continue to defend them," Zehri has been quoted as saying about the practice of burying independent-minded girls alive.

Then there is Pakistan's new education minister, Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani. Last year, the Supreme Court ordered him arrested for allegedly heading a local council that decided to solve a feud by taking five little girls and marrying them to men in an enemy clan. The girls were between the ages of 2 and 5, according to Samar Minallah, a Pakistani anthropologist who investigated the case.

While there are no easy solutions for the interlinked catastrophes unfolding in Pakistan and Afghanistan, there are several useful steps that we in the West can take to reduce the risk of the region turning into the next Somalia.

The paper suggested: "Obama should make his first presidential trip to Pakistan - and stop at a DIL school to remind Pakistan's army and elites that their greatest enemy isn't India but illiteracy."

ANI

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