Mumbai Fallout Could Include Pakistani Government Pakistan is under pressure from the U.S. and its neighbor India to show that it's willing to go after militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, which India blames for the Mumbai attacks. Hassan Abbas is a research fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center Center for Science and International Affairs. He tells Steve Inskeep that a confrontation over the Mumbai attacks would destabilize Pakistan's new democratic government.
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Mumbai Fallout Could Include Pakistani Government

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Mumbai Fallout Could Include Pakistani Government

Mumbai Fallout Could Include Pakistani Government

Mumbai Fallout Could Include Pakistani Government

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Pakistan is under pressure from the U.S. and its neighbor India to show that it's willing to go after militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, which India blames for the Mumbai attacks. Hassan Abbas is a research fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center Center for Science and International Affairs. He tells Steve Inskeep that a confrontation over the Mumbai attacks would destabilize Pakistan's new democratic government.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Pakistan's president says his government is motivated to act against terrorism because that government is threatened too. President Asif Ali Zardari wrote an article in The New York Times the other day. And he said the attacks in Mumbai, India, damage Pakistan's own government, its democracy, its efforts to make peace with India. We put those claims to Hassan Abbas. He's a former Pakistani police chief in the North-West Frontier Province in the northwestern part of the country who now teaches at Harvard University.

How would a group in Pakistan damage Pakistan's government by committing an attack in India?

Dr. HASSAN ABBAS (Research Fellow, Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University): Number one because this newly democratic setup, they went out of their way to go for a peace process with India. General Musharraf had started the peace process. But President Zardari of Pakistan went out of his way before the Mumbai attacks to say to India that I want to go for no-first-use of nuclear weapons. That was unprecedented. That changed Pakistan's nuclear policy.

He also, at one stage, said that I see a Pakistani in every Indian and a little bit of Indian in every Pakistani. These were very hopeful, very positive statements. The militants don't want that. They want this India-Pakistan rivalry to continue. The president...

INSKEEP: Why?

Dr. ABBAS: Because historically, they have animosity, rivalry with India. They think Kashmir was the right of Pakistan, which was taken over by India.

INSKEEP: Also, I suppose that if the Pakistani government is focused on a possible war with India, it's not worrying so much about eliminating terror groups within its own borders.

Dr. ABBAS: Exactly, because as soon as the Pakistan-India rivalry increases, or there is tension on the border, which means that 100,000 people, the army which is now in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area, they will move east with the Indian border. That will allow more space to al-Qaeda, to Taliban, to other groups. So that is also one of the purposes.

I think there might be an indirect hint also, which is that some of these militant groups, not all, some of these groups are known for their established links with the Pakistani security forces. And the president of Pakistan might also be hinting that some of these groups are close to religious political parties, close to some of the intelligence outfits.

And they are trying to destabilize the government, to create such a tension, such a stress within Pakistan that ultimately there will be another military rule in the country or another election, in which may some of the conservative political parties do better. So that's, I think, what he meant by damage to democratic prospects of the country.

INSKEEP: Is this still a functioning state?

Dr. ABBAS: It is, I genuinely believe. And the reason is this. They have a 600,000-strong military, and military by and large now is an organized, disciplined force - air force, navy. Then a functional judiciary. Yes, there were issues, as you might remember, when lawyers had come out on the streets demanding rule of law, which surprised the Western media partly because no one was expecting that, oh, people are asking for rule of law. Indeed, there are. Pakistan has 54 independent news channels, some of those very progressive. So it is a functioning state.

The problem is that because of this increase in terrorist acts, because of these pressures, and because of the economic meltdown, Pakistan's economy is in terrible shape. Those are the challenges which can take Pakistan towards state failure. But so far, the situation is still far away from what Afghanistan or Somalia. It is still a situation which can be rescued.

INSKEEP: Hassan Abbas, thanks for coming by.

Dr. ABBAS: So kind of you.

INSKEEP: Hassan Abbas is a research fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

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