Pakistan Fights Rogue Label

Pakistan is hoping for a better image, but so long as it blames America and India for its problems - and allows the Taliban to harass the Afghan people - it will be seen as a rogue state.

All of us who visit Pakistan are accustomed to the dichotomy: on an individual basis from the market merchant to the prime minister, I've met with kind, warm, exceptional people who make me want to overlook the weirdness of modern military rule over a medieval society .

For example, the new book "Whiskey Foxtrot Tango" (now a movie with Tina Fey), is a memoir by an American journalist covering Pakistan and Afghanistan. She writes that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif tried to seduce her, topping a series of demeaning experiences such as being groped in her backside by men in crowds as she covered the news.

(Of course her trials pale beside the 8,000 Pakistani women murdered in honor killings, often for marrying without family or village permission.)

Author Kim Baker says she would ask her Pakistani contacts what they believed happened to the Jews in the destruction of the World Trade Center? They invariably said the Jews were told not to come to work that day and they all escaped. They believe the Israelis and CIA planned the 9/11 attacks.

I've met the same bizarre conspiracy theory among Muslims from Morocco to Cairo to Islamabad - not just by poor and illiterate people informed by radical clerics in Friday sermons. Even buttoned down, suited government officers educated abroad asked me if it is true the Jews and CIA planned the attacks.

At a recent lunch in Washington with top diplomats, academics and reporters who cover Pakistan, our host asked us if we felt a "breakthrough" was coming in the strained relations between the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Several of the guests - including a State Department official -- felt there was hope that the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar and recent calls in Afghanistan and Pakistan for all-party talks could end decades of conflict in Afghanistan.

I was not so optimistic. Pakistan's powerful army and its Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) agency know they are in the catbird seat. They can turn the Taliban and other militant groups off and on at will. It is as if they held a barking, snarling dog on a chain, daring the confused Afghans to defy them. The United States has long felt cheated by Pakistan for:

--Appearing to shelter Osama Bin Laden in a compound about a mile from its military academy in Abottabad; -- Jailing a Pakistan doctor who helped US officials certify Bin Laden was in the compound, where he was killed by US Seals. -- Appearing to warn militants to help them escape US drone bombings. -- Allowing or even encouraging militant groups such as Lashkar-i-Toiba to carry out terrorist attacks on India. -- Allowing the Afghan Taliban to shelter in the Pakistani city of Quetta and in largely ungoverned tribal areas such as Waziristan; and then slip them into Afghanistan to attack Afghan, US and NATO troops. Some US officials believe that Pakistan might even have poisoned the CIA Station Chief in Islamabad after they released his name and that of his predecessor - a breach of intelligence cooperation, the Washington Post reported May 6.

Yet when I ask Pakistanis why they are double crossing us, they shift the blame to America, saying: --US drone strikes kill civilians --Pakistan needs more US military aid to face down giant India. --Pakistan also needs to be sure the Kabul government is not pro-India. --Pakistan wants Afghanistan to serve as a backwater to retreat to should India invade.

Pakistan cannot forget that India's army cut Pakistan in half when it intervened in the 1971 civil war. West Pakistan lost control over East Pakistan, which became Bangladesh.

So the United States and Pakistan remain in an unhappy marriage. The dysfunctional union was wonderfully mimicked in recent episodes of the CBS TV show "Madam Secretary." A cunning Pakistani foreign minister cuts a deal with terrorists to overthrow the government for dealing with the hated Americans. Fearful US diplomats send in the US army to seize its 100 plus nuclear warheads. Then they have to track down a few nukes that were taken by the terrorists. In effect, this is the American nightmare about Pakistan.

One thing to count on is that the tightly controlled army is addicted to billions in US assistance and wont kill the goose with the golden eggs.