Terrorism being used to play politics in US and Pakistan
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: “The mixing of anti-terrorism policy with the 2004 presidential campaign is becoming destructive, creating a vicious cycle of hype, scepticism and mistrust that puts the country’s security at risk,” according to David Ignatius writing in the Washington Post on Tuesday.
He writes that it is the Bush administration that has helped create “this climate of public suspicion” by overusing its elaborate, colour-coded system of terrorism warnings. He argues that in its eagerness to show how serious it is in fighting terrorism, the name of the captured double agent Naeem Noor Khan was leaked the same day the latest terror alert was announced either by an official in Washington or Islamabad. The leak was “disastrous” for at least one ongoing intelligence operation. Khan may have been the most important agent working for the US in the terrorism war but once his name was out, he could be of no further use. Both British and Pakistani officials were “furious” about the leak, the former because it had blown one of their operations.
The columnist quotes Pakistan’s interior minister Faisal Saleh Hayat as saying, “This is a very sensitive subject. We must be very careful. We must exercise extreme caution in coming out with such names and such information.”
According to the writer, “A government has no asset more precious than public trust. That’s especially true for a nation threatened by a terrorist adversary, where good intelligence and reliable warnings can save lives. By linking its reelection campaign so closely to the war on terrorism, the Bush administration has eroded its credibility - to the point that some members of the public are beginning to wonder whether terrorism warnings are all just politics. Public cynicism about terrorism is dangerous - and so is the politicisation of intelligence that breeds it. The danger is that when the administration warns for real about the next September 11, it won’t be believed.”
Writing on the same theme for Salon.com, an online, by-subscription-only news and article service, Pakistani journalist Husain Haqqani writes Tuesday that for the Bush administration to have risked playing politics with the timing of arrest of terror suspects is a disturbing enough possibility, but even more disturbing is the prospect that the initiative to gain political advantage from these arrests came not from the Bush administration but from the Musharraf regime. “By subcontracting the hunt for bin Laden to an authoritarian ally who has a special interest in the flow of economic and military benefits resulting from this contract, the administration may be giving that ally a powerful say in America’s political agenda whose effect is to undermine the war against Al Qaeda,” he argues.
According to him Gen. Musharraf’s “enlistment” in the anti-terrorism war is a continuation of Pakistan’s long-established willingness to be useful to the United States for the “right price.”