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Pakistan's Texas-sized problems

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* Adding pressure from within, the militant Maulana Fazlullah, who briefly took control of the Swat region and ran it along Taliban lines before being pushed out by a Pakistani Army operation, has returned to the Pakistani-Afghan border region. He released a video showing the severed heads of 17 Pakistani soldiers, together with their identification cards, almost taunting the army to come and get him.

* Indian investigators say that an Indian militant, allegedly linked to the Lashkar-e-Taiba attacks on Mumbai on Nov. 26, 2008, has reportedly admitted under interrogation that Pakistani intelligence officers were with him in Lashkar’s “control room” in Karachi as the attacks were being carried out. Pakistan has claimed it had no involvement in the attacks, which killed more than 166 people, and wounded more than 300.

* And in Islamabad, Pakistan’s government moved ever closer to paralysis, as Pakistan’s Supreme Court pushed newly appointed Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to reopen corruption cases against President Ali Asif Zardari. Mr. Ashraf was elected prime minister last week to replace Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who was banned by the Supreme Court from holding office after he refused to reopen the case against Zardari.

So let’s review: US and Pakistani relations are at a low point, with both countries increasingly regarding and treating each other like an enemy. Pakistan’s military may have been implicated in terrorist attacks against India, and it now has an armed militia leader apparently planning to carve out a part of the country to rule as a Taliban-like state. And amid all this trouble, Pakistan’s Supreme Court and its executive branch appear to be facing off in a fight to determine who gets to run the country.

Which brings me back to my Pakistani diplomat friend; if Pakistanis and Americans are more alike than they admit, could the same host of problems affecting Pakistan now – rising religious extremism, military adventurism, constitutional fights, and separatism – happen in the US too? Perish the thought.

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