Pakistan epicentre of terror: US think tank

Times of India

ANI [ THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2003 11:09:47 AM ]

WASHINGTON: A researcher at the US' think tank — the Cato Institute — has said that terrorists like Bin Laden are in plenty in Pakistan who can pose a threat to the US in the near future. He claims that this is not speculation but reality.

"In Pakistan, there are legions of bin Ladin followers, plenty of links between government officials and terrorists and nuclear weapons that could fall into the hands of anti-American terrorists. This is not speculation," The Daily Times quoted Leon Hadar as saying.

Hadar said that some evidence suggests that some Pakistani nuclear scientists are maintaining ties with al-Qaeda and other extremist Islamic groups. All this suggests that under various scenarios, Pakistan could turn into a nuclear-armed ally of al-Qaeda.

He advised that while the US administration should work with Pakistan in the economic arena, it should refrain from embracing President Musharraf's regime as an ally.

According to him, intelligence experts have gathered that Osama bin Ladin and other al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders may have found sanctuaries in the federally administered tribal areas in Pakistan.

According to the paper, Hadar wrote: "At the same time, some members of the Pakistani security forces continue to provide assistance to Islamic militants in Kashmir. Indeed, US officials admit that Musharraf has failed to crack down on those who support the fighters in Kashmir, who threaten to ignite war — possibly one that could turn nuclear — between Pakistan and India

The researcher stated that US should be more concerned about the growing evidence that Pakistan's nuclear programme, believed to be an arsenal containing between 35 and 60 nuclear weapons, may have become a source of technology for North Korea and Iran.

Asserting that Musharraf is sabotaging the stability in Afghanistan, he said that Pakistan is harbouring Islamic militants in Kashmir and playing an active role in the proliferation of nuclear weapons, which it has already developed.

The paper also quoted several news organisations saying that members of a resurgent Taliban are using Pakistan as a base for strikes against the US-backed government in Kabul.

According to these reports, the Taliban enjoy the support of Pashtun tribes as well as sympathetic Pakistani military officers led by the intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

He concluded that Pakistan — and not Iraq — remains a central stage in America's continuing anti-terrorism campaign. By diverting scarce military and economic resources to fight an unnecessary war in Iraq, Washington may have weakened its ability to contain those who perpetrated the 9/11 terrorist acts and their benefactors.