Bin Laden outpolls Musharraf in Pakistan

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP Sameer Lalwani argues in a new Web exclusive for FP that the best hope for U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Pakistan, surprisingly, is to engage and reinforce Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s military regime. It’s no secret that Musharraf has seen better days, but a recent poll (pdf) by the anti-terrorism organization Terror Free Tomorrow shows ...

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599384_070913_pakistan_05.jpg

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP

Sameer Lalwani argues in a new Web exclusive for FP that the best hope for U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Pakistan, surprisingly, is to engage and reinforce Gen. Pervez Musharraf's military regime. It's no secret that Musharraf has seen better days, but a recent poll (pdf) by the anti-terrorism organization Terror Free Tomorrow shows just how dismal a state he is in. The general's approval ratings (at 38 percent) failed to surpass public approval for Osama bin Laden, who was seen favorably by 46 percent of respondents. And Musharraf's civilian political rivals, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, were welcomed much more warmly by Pakistanis (they received respective ratings of 63 and 57 percent).

But these numbers actually help Lalwani's argument in a way. He writes in his piece:

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP

Sameer Lalwani argues in a new Web exclusive for FP that the best hope for U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Pakistan, surprisingly, is to engage and reinforce Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s military regime. It’s no secret that Musharraf has seen better days, but a recent poll (pdf) by the anti-terrorism organization Terror Free Tomorrow shows just how dismal a state he is in. The general’s approval ratings (at 38 percent) failed to surpass public approval for Osama bin Laden, who was seen favorably by 46 percent of respondents. And Musharraf’s civilian political rivals, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, were welcomed much more warmly by Pakistanis (they received respective ratings of 63 and 57 percent).

But these numbers actually help Lalwani’s argument in a way. He writes in his piece:

A deeply unpopular United States and the prevailing ethnic fissures also render it politically untenable for a civilian government to do Washington’s bidding. Neither Bhutto nor Sharif will crack down on the tribal regions, whatever promises they are privately making these days. 

So, with this much public distrust of the United States (only 4 percent said the United States has had any positive motivation in conducting the war on terror, and 66 percent believed the United States is acting against Islam), it would be difficult to expect a civilian government to be as cooperative in fighting al Qaeda within the country’s borders.

Oh, and there is one more thing to worry about: The nukes. Ken Ballen of Terror Free Tomorrow told CNN:

[I]n the one Muslim nation that already has nuclear weapons, people who are intent on using them against us, such as al Qaeda and bin Laden, enjoy more popular support than the people we are trusting such as President Musharraf to safeguard those nuclear weapons. 

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