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The Man From Pakistan author Douglas Frantz on the India-Pakistan crisis

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HH: Joined now by Douglas Frantz. He is the author along with his colleague and spouse, Catherine Collins, of the book The Man From Pakistan: The True Story Of The World’s Most Dangerous Nuclear Smuggler. It is now out in paperback. I have linked it at Hughhewitt.com. I’ll bump it to the top very shortly. Douglas Frantz, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, great to have you.

DF: Thanks, Hugh, I appreciate the opportunity to come on again.

HH: Well, what little I know about Pakistan, I don’t know much, I learned a lot from your book The Man From Pakistan. And I was thinking of it over the weekend as I considered these attacks from Pakistan. Can you set up for us the situation within Pakistan vis-à-vis the Islamists and the role, obviously, The Man From Pakistan is about A.Q. Khan. But it’s also a lot about this country cannot figure out if it’s going to be an Islamist state or not.

DF: Well, it is exactly, Hugh. I mean, you hit on the right phrase there, an Islamist state. I think that the problem with, one of the problems with Pakistan along with great poverty and illiteracy and a lack of natural resources is that from its founding in 1947, it was created to be an Islamic republic. It’s only real reason to exist was as a haven for Muslims. And therefore, I think its identity has been wrapped up very closely in religion. And what we’ve seen in the last, not just the last few years, but I think since the late 1970s, we’ve seen a growth among religious extremists in Pakistan. It started, really, under General Zia ul-Haq when he took over control after ousting Zulfikar ali Bhutto. Ul-Haq, Zia turned to the Saudis to help finance a huge education system across Pakistan that we all know of now as the madrassas. And those madrassas were breeding grounds for extremist Islamists, and they have continued to this day. And you sort of have those seeds planted back then, and we see them coming to fruition in so many places now – in Eastern Afghanistan where Pakistani Taliban are attacking American troops, in the tribal belt where Osama bin Laden is hiding and planning his next attack, and then over the last few days in these terrible events in Mumbai. It’s all part and parcel of the same, sad pattern.

HH: When they began to unfold, the attacks of last Wednesday night, Douglas Frantz, did you immediately think ah, these must have originated in Pakistan?

DF: Absolutely. I think, you know, there’s a great danger in jumping to conclusions, but I think everybody who knows anything about Pakistan, and about the relations between Pakistan and India, and this ongoing dispute, this sixty year dispute over Kashmir, would jump to the conclusion that this was a group with its roots in Pakistan. And as evidence has emerged in the last few days, not only from the single gunman who was caught alive, but from American intelligence and Indian intelligence, and even a couple of Pakistani sources I have, it seems clear that an operation this elaborate, this well planned and with cadres that were this well trained had to come from the training camps in Pakistan. I think that doesn’t necessarily mean the Pakistani government was involved, nor does it necessarily mean that the Pakistani Intelligence Service was involved. But it does, I think, signal yet again a failure of Pakistan to clean up its own backyard.

HH: Doug Frantz, expand on people, if you will, and again I refer them to your book which I’ve bumped to the top over at Hughhewitt.com, which is The Man From Pakistan: The True Story Of The World’s Most Dangerous Nuclear Smuggler on Lashkar e-Taiba. What is this group? What do they want?

DF: Lashkar e-Taiba is, it’s…if you think of the IRA, if you think of Sinn Fein, and then the IRA guerrillas, Lashkar e-Taiba is the militant arm of a Pakistani group called Jama’at-ud-Da’wah or party of calling. And it was a group that was established in the late 1980s to basically train militants to make incursions into Kashmir. You know, what they’re looking for, what they were looking for initially was a way to wrest control of Kashmir, or at least the part of Kashmir where most of the Muslims live, away from India. And so that’s the cause of this conflict. That’s what led to the creation of this group. But what’s happened in the last few years since September 11th, 2001, is Lashkar e-Taiba and a couple of other militant Pakistani groups have become part of the al Qaeda network. Now they have certain distinct goals, and they have certain distinct leadership, but nonetheless, the ultimate overriding goal of these groups is the same as al Qaeda in Pakistan, and as the Taliban, and Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and that is to overthrow democratically-elected government and install Islamist governments. And so they need to be seen as part of that. Now Lashkar e-Taiba was banned in early 2002 by General Pervez Musharraf at the insistence of the United States. But the ban was not effective in any way. They continued to raise money. I mean, when I was back in Pakistan this past April, Hugh, I was up in Pashawar, and I was going in some shops there in Pashawar where I could see collection boxes for Lashkar e-Taiba. Now that doesn’t strike me as a banned terrorist organization. That strikes me as an organization that still retains at least a good measure of tolerance from the Pakistani government, and support in certain segments of the population there.

HH: I’m talking with Douglas Frantz. He’s the author along with Catherine Collins of The Man From Pakistan: The True Story Of The World’s Most Dangerous Nuclear Smuggler. It’s linked at Hughhewitt.com. It’s sort of the primer on everything Pakistan. We’ve got two and a half minutes to break, Doug, and this cannot be done in two and a half minutes, but could you walk through with people the relationship between India and Pakistan post-partition?

DF: Sure. Yeah, I mean, it’s been fraught with problems, the root of many of those problems is in Kashmir. And Kashmir is a mountainous region that sort of is between both countries. It’s in the upper far northwestern India, and northeastern Pakistan. At the time of partition in 1947, they couldn’t decide what to do with that area, and so it was left under the control of a majarajah, and it was supposed to be independent. And Pakistan invaded it for the first time in October, 1947. They waited about three months after partition to invade. They wanted to take it over because it had a primarily Muslim population. The Indians came back and fought and kicked the Pakistani soldiers out. And in return, they took control over most of Kashmir. And they promised as part of that deal with the majaraji that they would have a plebiscite overseen by the U.N, and allow the people who lived there to choose either independence, or alignment with India, or alignment with Pakistan. That plebiscite has never taken place, and so it’s been a bur under the saddle of the relations between these two neighbors ever since. Now the 1947 incursion, it didn’t end until January of 1949 with a ceasefire. War broke out again in 1965 after Pakistani troops crossed what they called the Line of Control or the border there, and then again in 1999 there was fighting between India and Pakistan in Kashmir. And that one almost went to nuclear war. There was great concern in the Clinton White House at that time that Pakistan was moving around its nuclear weapons and its nuclear strike force, and there was a lot of worry there. And so Kashmir has been at the root of this intense rivalry and almost hatred between Pakistan and India. And it seems like every time…

HH: When we come back, Douglas Frantz is my guest, his book The Man From Pakistan, more when we return to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

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HH: Douglas Frantz, when we went to break, you were talking about the three battles over Kashmir that have waged thus far. Define for the audience how India and Pakistan get along today. And it might even require you to talk a little bit more generally about Pakistan in the round, because we just don’t understand the sub-Continent very well.

DF: No, no, I think we don’t. And that’s a good question, Hugh. And one way to look at it is, if you go back in history, it’s another mess that the British left us. You know, if you look at the map of the Middle East where they messed that up pretty badly, and where we’re still paying for it, I think when the British pulled out of their Indian empire in 1947, they divided that empire and they created West Pakistan and East Pakistan as haven for the Muslims, and they left in the central part intact as primarily a Hindu country, although there are about 150 Muslims still living in India. But the Pakistanis, both east and west, have lived in constant fear of their much larger neighbor. And in some ways, those fears have been stoked by India’s own actions, by its aggressions against Pakistan, certainly at the time of partition. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims were killed and driven from India. So against that backdrop, Pakistan is very frightened, and Pakistan, to sort of go back just briefly to the topic of our book, The Man From Pakistan, which for the sake of your loyal listeners, used to be called The Nuclear Jihadist, but we changed the title in hopes of attracting more duplicate buyers, I guess. But when you go back to the nuclear program, India created a nuclear bomb, and Pakistan felt compelled to have a nuclear weapon also in order to establish a deterrence against the much larger Indians and their own nuclear arsenal. And so what we’ve got is this constant tit for tat with these two neighbors. And over Kashmir, and over some other issues, it seems to rush right to the brink of all-out war. And since 1998 when both countries tested and demonstrated that they have atomic weapons, at least on two occasions, in 1999 over Kashmir, and then again in 2002 after the attack on the Indian parliament in December of 2001, they pushed each other to the point where there was great concern again in Washington about the possibility of some kind of a nuclear showdown on the sub-Continent. And so we have these two archenemies, and it seems like, Hugh, every time they get, they make progress on peace talks, and there have been some progress in the last days of Musharraf, and in these early days under Asif Zardari in Pakistan, and seeing in India, we’ve seen some progress toward improved relations. Every time we seem to get to this point, there’s another episode obviously intended in part to throw off those peace tracks. I think these last very well planned attacks need to be seen in that history. They had really, in my mind, Hugh, three goals. One was to tarnish India’s image as an educated, growing economic power. The second one was to force the movement of the Pakistani military out of Western Pakistan where they’ve been doing a better job of taking on the Taliban and the foreign fighting elements, to move them to the eastern border to give these extremists in the west a freer hand. And third, and most important, I think, was to disrupt the peace process, any progress toward peace, and put these two countries on a path toward war. And to me, that’s the most disturbing potential impact of these attacks. I mean, it’s a shame that so many people are dead, obviously. But I think the death toll could be far, far huger unless steps are taken to get this under control, both in the near term and in the longer run.

HH: Now President Zardari originally said he was going to send the head of the ISI to India. He revoked that. We’ve got thirty seconds to the break and we’ll come back and talk about it. Was that ominous, in your view, Douglas Frantz?

DF: No, I don’t think it was ominous. I think Zardari really knows he has to find a way to cooperate and to diffuse this bomb, otherwise he’s going to face another terrible problem. And he has a host of them on his table already, Hugh.

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HH: Doug, before we go back to Pakistan generally, what has happened to A.Q. Khan, the central figure in the book, The Man From Pakistan?

DF: Well, he’s gotten, as we predicted at the end of our book when it first came out last December, he’s gotten a lot more freedom. He’s had, he’s conducted many interviews with the foreign press and the local press on the telephone and via computer. He’s been out and about in Islamabad just a little bit. And there’s a lot of pressure to release A.Q. Khan from house arrest and actually rehabilitate him. That comes not just from the Islamic factions, but also from the strong nationalists, some Nawaz Sharif, who was part of the coalition government for a while there, and his wife have been big proponents of Khan. So in a sense, there’s an effort to rehabilitate him. But so far, the Zardari government has kept him pretty much under lock and key. They realize that he’s a dangerous fellow to get out for a lot of reasons.

HH: Now the other question is where is this Pakistani government when it comes to the ISI, and the ISI’s relationship with al Qaeda, and obviously the home grown terrorists? What do you think is going on in Pakistan right now?

DF: Well, I was in Afghanistan and Pakistan for March and April, and I was trying to answer in part just exactly that question, Hugh. And I had a lot of meetings with officers in the ISI, the Pakistani Intelligence Service. I had a really good Pakistani assistant who was helping me, and he was able to set up a number of key interviews. And what I see from my conversations with them, or what I heard in my conversations with them was that they’re very sympathetic toward the Taliban, despite the fact that some of these attacks have killed ISI officers, despite the fact that a busload of army recruits was attacked, and that Pakistani soldiers have been killed, and they’ve lost more than a thousand people. Nonetheless, there are prominent factions within the ISI that remain allied with and sympathetic to the Taliban, protective of al Qaeda, and for the purposes, the events of the last few days, protective of Lashkar e-Taiba, and similar militant organizations because your listeners…I should have said earlier, perhaps, that Lashkar e-Taiba was trained and financed in large part by the ISI, as to use them as a weapon against the Indians in Kashmir. And so they have this longstanding connection between ISI and Lashkar e-Taiba that on the surface was cut by Musharraf, but in fact just below the surface still runs very strong. And so the ISI, I think, remains, factions of it anyway, remain a threat to a stable, democratic government in Pakistan. I think Zardari can only go so far in trying to rein them in. I think General Kayyani, who took over as the chief of armed forces, is in fact a fairly reasonable fellow who would like to, and has made some efforts to remove those more militant factions in ISI. But it’s a very difficult task, because they’re so deeply rooted inside that intelligence service.

HH: Now obviously the $64,000, or $64 million dollar question, is the security of the nuclear forces at the disposal of Pakistan, and who can control those, how reliable is that control mechanism, especially if conflict with India escalates as a result of the attacks of last week. What are you responses on that?

DF: Well, boy, I think you hit the nail right on the head there with, especially if the conflict with India escalates, because I think the nightmare scenario here is that they go to war, and that it’s not impossible that one side and then the other would use nuclear weapons. But let’s just suppose they hold a conventional war. And once again, as they always have, the Pakistani armed forces get routed. I think that that creates massive instability inside Pakistan, and I think that that will increase the chances that those nukes could go loose. I think right now, the military has them under good security. And you know, Pakistan tries to defer our concerns about their nuclear arsenal getting into the wrong hands by saying we have many soldiers surrounding those facilities, and nobody’s going to storm the gates. Well, that isn’t really the threat. The threat is great, widespread instability in Pakistan, and you have factions of the military and the intelligence service taking control of some of these nukes, and turning them over to these lunatics of God, and then who knows what happens. To me, that’s the real nightmare scenario, and that’s the worst possible fallout, quite literally, and figuratively, from an Indian-Pakistani conflict from an American point of view.

HH: And if we, you know, the old midnight clock, where the American nuclear scientist would move the clock closer to midnight as they got closer to a nuclear exchange, using that analogy, Douglas Frantz, where are we now on the India-Pakistan tension scale? Obviously, you’ve been to the region fairly recently, you’ve been following events in India over the weekend very closely. How dangerous are these times right now?

DF: You know, I think it’s very dangerous. I think that, and it’s particularly dangerous because the United States is in a transitional period. You know, it’s difficult for the Bush administration, and for Condoleezza Rice, I mean, I’m glad she’s going to India, and I’m glad she’s spoken out to the Pakistanis, but it’s difficult for her to speak with the authority that’s necessary, and it’s impossible, really, for Obama and his crew to do so. And so you have weakness on the American side because of the transition, and you have this enormous conflict, you have enormous anger in India. I was talking to my daughter today in London, she’s a doctoral student at the London School of Economics, and she said her Indian colleagues are absolutely outraged. But what concerns them most is that this is going to create more communal strife inside India, that it’s going to escalate, and the Hindus will start attacking the Indian Muslims, and that’s going to inflame Pakistan. I think that on that doomsday clock, we’ve got to be ten minutes to midnight, and those ten minutes are going to tick by very fast unless both of these sides can come to some agreements, and unless Pakistan is ready to take real and swift action against the leaders and the training camps of Lashkar e-Taiba.

HH: Douglas Frantz, thanks for joining us. We’ll check back in with you as we get moving further into this crisis. The books is The Man From Pakistan, you really must read it, America, if you want to know what’s going on there, available in new paperback edition at Hughhewitt.com and Amazon.com.

End of interview.

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