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‘Lose Tribal Areas and you lose Pakistan’

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LAHORE: The ‘existential threat’ to Pakistan is overstated, Akbar S Ahmad, Pakistan’s former high commissioner to the UK, has said. A functioning political, civil and military structure exists in Pakistan, he said, and will prevent collapse of the state. The impulse for democracy, said Prof Ahmad, is deep. However, successive Pakistani leaders have failed to translate Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s spirit into reality and the structures he put in place have been weakened. The emergence of the Taliban is one consequence of this. The Taliban’s spread from Swat into Buner, he said, was not surprising: geographically, it is an appendix of Swat. The fact that Buner is close to Islamabad has set off alarm bells. But the bigger danger is what happens in Mardan, the most fertile and heavily populated part of the NWFP. If Pakistan loses control of Peshawar, it would be checkmate for the Western troops there. Pakistan’s government must establish a civil service structure and an independent judiciary in Swat and back it with police authority. The US, meanwhile, must stop hammering Pakistan, in public, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been doing. President Barack Obama has said the most dangerous place in the world is Pakistan’s Tribal Areas. Why? Because if you lose them, then you lose Pakistan, followed by Afghanistan.Prof Ahmad said Obama should demand that President Asif Ali Zardari immediately impose law and order in Swat, as well as a genuine reform of the madrassa system. daily times monitor\04\26\story_26-4-2009_pg1_13

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