Pakistan might preen itself after helping foil the plot to blow up US-bound airliners, but pointed questions are being raised in the American media on the hotbed of global terror that the country has allowed itself to become.
Much to the discomfiture of Islamabad, intelligence sources cited by the Washington Post have suggested that Pakistan has replaced Afghanistan as a centre for terrorist activities. "The Pakistan connection is the big focus now. Everything is coming out of there," a US law enforcement official said, adding that investigations are on to see if some of the suspects in the liquid bomb plot attended training camps in Pakistan. Some US officials felt that five years after the 9/11 terror attacks, the Pakistani authorities were “far from countering, or even understanding, the level of threat emanating from Pakistan's lawless regions and bustling cities”, the Post reported.
US intelligence analysts believe that the principal remaining leadership of Al Qaeda is hiding in Pakistan. Despite Pakistan's increased cooperation with Western powers since 9/11, they feel the number of extremists in the country may be on the rise as “elements of Pakistan's intelligence services remain sympathetic to their cause”.
Pakistan's predicament was also highlighted by The New York Times, which commented: "For Pakistan, success of this kind is a double-edged sword." The development may allow Musharraf to project Pakistan as a front-line ally in the global war on terror, but then "it is also a tacit acknowledgement that "Pakistan remains a nexus for would-be terrorists from half-way across the world". "This week's case is the sixth major terrorist attack...to be linked to Pakistan in some fashion," the NYT said.
Focusing on the Pakistani dimension, the Los Angeles Times said the trail of evidence in the British investigation poses an uncomfortable question for the Bush administration: "Is Pakistan — and not Iraq, Afghanistan or some other country —the central front in the war on terrorism?"