THE MARCH OF FREEDOM
Our pals the Pakistanis:
A controversial new law critics say will seek Taleban-style moral policing has been presented in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province.
The bill would see the introduction of a moral police force to ensure strict adherence to Islamic injunctions.
...hardline religious parties have enough seats in the provincial house to pass the bill.
...The proposed law calls for the establishment of a new department to "discourage vice and encourage virtue."
The BBC's Aamer Ahmed Khan in Karachi says that in effect, a new office will be set up along the lines of the office of the ombudsman, at provincial as well as district level.
It will be headed by a cleric called "mohtasib" - one who holds others accountable - to be nominated by the government....
North-West Frontier Province is, of course, in that ornery border region with Afghanistan, the part of Pakistan that regularly gives Pervez Musharraf the willies.
Meanwhile, Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, writes in today's International Herald Tribune that Pakistan has several reasons not to want bin Laden caught, some of which are new to me:
... the reality is that Musharraf has little incentive to catch bin Laden - and it may even be in the military's interest to keep him alive, without necessarily knowing where he is.
Pakistan's military fears that its alliance with the United States is a short-term one, based on cooperating in the war on terrorism, while Washington's long-term ally in the region is India, Pakistan's rival, with which the United States signed a 10-year strategic defense pact on June 29. According to this logic, America cannot dump Pakistan as long as the war on terrorism continues and bin Laden remains to be captured.
The Pakistani Army is also angry at President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan for giving India a strategic foothold in his country and at the Americans for doing nothing to stop it. Pakistan's government claims that India is using Afghan soil to support an insurgency by nationalists in Baluchistan Province.
Pakistan's military is keen to maintain its political influence on the Afghan Pashtun population in eastern Afghanistan, something it has done since 1989 and is loath to give up.
So turning a blind eye to bin Laden's whereabouts and to Taliban recruitment inside Pakistan gives the army leverage over both Washington and Kabul....
That's in addition to the obvious reasons:
At the same time, Musharraf's own political survival partially depends on not catching bin Laden.... The army's top brass has no interest in provoking the terrorist mayhem and increased extremism that would certainly follow if bin Laden is caught or killed on Pakistani soil.
Meanwhile Musharraf has kept the fundamentalists at home on his side by allying himself with Pakistan's largest Islamic fundamentalist parties, who idealize bin Laden and rule the two provinces bordering Afghanistan. If bin Laden were caught, the fundamentalists might break that alliance and leave Musharraf politically isolated.
The Bush administration appears to have decided that the risk of destabilizing the region was a good enough reason not to press too hard for the death or capture of bin Laden -- and then it decided that the risk of destabilizing the region wasn't a good enough reason not to overthrow Saddam. Even though bin Laden had 3,000 Americans killed on 9/11 and Saddam didn't.