The current political turmoil in Pakistan has raised concerns in Washington that the Pakistani government is no longer focused on battling Islamic militants and it is making the country an even safer haven for terrorists. VOA's Ravi Khanna has more.
Taliban fighters are not just hiding out in Pakistan's remote mountains bordering Afghanistan. They are in Swat, just 145 kilometers away from Islamabad.
A Taliban commander says the Pakistani army belongs to the people, but it is carrying out atrocities against Muslims on the orders of foreign countries. Experts say the Taliban and al-Qaida are well established in nuclear-armed Pakistan. Reports from the region indicate that not only have Islamic militants killed hundreds of people this year in Pakistan, but they are operating openly in several major cities.
Caroline Wadhams is an analyst at the liberal leaning Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. She says the situation is dangerous for Pakistan and the whole region.
"I just think this is not good for the stability of Pakistan, and therefore it is bad for its relationship with India, its ability to conduct operations against the Taliban and al-Qaida on the border," says Wadhams. "Also I think by stifling the secular opposition, it makes the religious or the extremist opposition the only voice of opposition still around. And I think that's dangerous."
Patricia Taft at the independent Fund for Peace in Washington is more concerned about U.S. and NATO forces trying to keep peace in neighboring Afghanistan. "The other big concern is that for the United States, and also our NATO allies who have peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan, because Pakistan is one of the main overland supply routes both for military and humanitarian aid into Afghanistan. So that could have much more dangerous consequences," she said.
Former U.S. Ambassador Teresita Schaffer at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington is concerned about the future of Pakistan's ongoing efforts to control terrorism. "My concern is that this will turn out to be a distraction from the very difficult task of controlling Pakistan's border areas and dealing with domestic extremism," says Schaffer.
Asked whether, during the emergency, the army would have the upper hand, Schaffer replied, "But it will also have new responsibilities. Where will it deploy its forces? What will people be thinking about? Will they be thinking about how to control the press or how to control the extremists?"
International concern heightened after a failed attempt to blow up airlines over the Atlantic Ocean last year and the London subway bombings in 2005.