Cliff May

Pakistan’s founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, envisioned a secular state, one that would show tolerance toward Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Buddhists. But Jinnah died just months after the nation was born and his vision of Pakistan was buried with him. In the end, more than a million people were killed during a massive population exchange. Today, 97 percent of Pakistan’s 165 million are Muslim. India, by contrast, is only 80 percent Hindu with Muslims constituting more than 13 percent of its 1.1 billion souls.

In 1956, a military coup led to Pakistan becoming “the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.” Even so, it was not yet what you’d call a militant Islamist state. The country’s elites, educated in British and American schools (Bhutto attended both Harvard and Oxford), were hardly theocrats, much less militant jihadis.

Pakistan’s nuclear program was established in1972 by her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, then Minister for Fuel, Power and Natural Resources. He became Prime Minister the following year, but was ousted by a military coup in 1977. Accused of various crimes, he was hanged two years after that.

But the nuclear program continued and in 1998 Pakistan detonated an “Islamic” nuclear bomb. Military historian Victor Davis Hanson called letting that happen “the greatest foreign policy lapse of the last quarter-century.” Coincidently, 1998 also was the year bin Laden issued his infamous fatwa: "The rule to kill Americans and their allies--civilians and military--is a sacred duty for any Muslim."

The Parade article, written by Gail Sheehy – called by The New York Times “America 's most therapeutic journalist” -- quotes Bhutto saying that without new and improved Pakistani leadership, al-Qaeda could be “marching on Islamabad in two to four years.”

Sheehy concludes by saying that Bhutto “appears to be America’s strong anchor in the effort to turn back the extremist Islamic tide threatening to engulf Pakistan.” If so, America is now adrift in a nuclear-armed and therefore critical corner of the world. At least part of the reason may be wishful thinking – the still widely held belief that militant Islamists – in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and elsewhere -- can be frightened by words, appeased with money, and defeated by subpoenas and good intentions.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.