Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari claimed in a Guardian interview on Sunday that the war in Afghanistan has stymied his noble efforts to establish a stable, functioning and prosperous democracy -- sentiments that strike one as being duplicitous, if not demented, considering Pakistan's role in both the war's origin and its duration.
As Zardari veneered reality and tried to place the onus elsewhere as to why Pakistan is considered one of the most failed states on earth, members of the Afghan Taliban leadership council, also known as the Quetta Shura, were sitting snug in some safe house (or cave) under the protection of Pakistan's spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
It's hard to dodge the self-indicting evidence found in the group's moniker alone -- it being named after a city in Pakistan and all. Then again, the only ones that deny the world's worst kept secret, that the ISI is aiding, abetting and providing sanctuary for the Taliban -- are usually members of the ISI.
Not to mention the most lethal of Taliban affiliates -- the Haqqani Network -- has been holed up in North Waziristan for the past decade with the Pakistani military's implicit approval. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has begged Pakistani leadership to force these terrorists out of their safe havens on the Afghan border -- all to no avail. Strategists believe this to be one of the key reasons this war will never end.
But Pakistan culpability doesn't stop with simply supporting the Taliban, for they helped establish the movement itself during the 1990s. To validate this, one need go no further than Mr. Zardari who told NBC News in 2009 that the CIA and ISI, in league, created the Taliban.
The history of the problem runs further back and far deeper still. The Taliban were an outgrowth of the mujahideen -- jihadists funded by the CIA via the ISI during the 1980s to fight the evil Soviet empire. After the Soviet retreat, these mujahideen "freedom fighters" became the very warlords that divided and terrified Afghanistan as it spiraled into civil war, moral decay and chaos, which led to conditions ripe for the rise of The Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The fact Pakistan created and currently supports the Taliban forces one to ask Mr. Zardari: "Who is destabilizing who?"
The reason Pakistan is unstable has nothing to do with Afghanistan. Pakistan is unstable because of Zardari and his civilian government's complete lack of leadership -- a lack of moral fiber and weakness that has allowed army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to become the most powerful man in Pakistan.
As a result, a diminutive percentage of the Pakistani budget is allocated to education and social services while a gross amount subsidizes Pakistan's nuclear program driven by the military's obsession to prepare for the war of all wars against India.
This obsessive compulsion has also driven the establishment and fostering of a number of extremist groups, from Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) to the Haqqani Network, which are referred to in ISI parlance as "anti-Indian assets." Unfortunately, these groups have become the enemies within and have killed more Pakistanis than they have any other enemies -- real or fancied -- over the past 10 years. They have also initiated a proxy war against India within Afghanistan -- supplying us with more evidence that Pakistan is the one guilty of spreading instability.
Zardari is a case study in poor leadership, made apparent when he fled his homeland last summer on a diplomatic boondoggle -- replete with hotel stays of $11,000 per night -- in the midst of the biggest natural disaster Pakistan has ever faced when monsoon floods covered one-fifth of the country, killed thousands and negatively impacted 20 million people.
As the caterwauls of the dying floated from flood waters in Nowshera, Mr. Zardari sipped tea with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the Chequers country retreat in Buckinghamshire. Even worse, this clueless elitist had the gall to swing by his family's chateau in France, indicating that he is either void of soul or commonsense. He might as well have gone the distance in completely filling the role of the unsympathetic figurehead by going on record as saying: "Let them eat cake."
Pakistani leadership is to blame for not only the country's security issues but its economic woes as well. As Pakistani defense planners stupidly try to keep pace with its neighboring enemy, Pakistan's economic performance has fallen way behind India's. Only 2% of Pakistanis pay income tax -- a situation made all the more exasperating by the fact that a multitude of government officials, landed elite and rich industrialists pay zero in taxes each year.
As a result, Pakistan's revenues remain among the lowest in the world and now Pakistan will have to survive off U.S. largesse and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Calculating that they are too strategically important, Pakistan has decided to forego reform in the belief the international community will come through with support.
Because the bulk of foreign aid is tied to U.S. and NATO security objectives, incessant war will indirectly fund the Pakistani state indefinitely. Yet private foreign aid organizations are becoming more reluctant to fill the gap and invest in areas like education, especially those burnt by corrupt Pakistani politicians who have siphoned off funds.
Meanwhile, as an anemic near-bankrupt government is unable to provide basic civil services, hard-line mosques and militant groups fill the vacuum by providing education, health care and efficient justice, while winning the hearts and minds of future radicals.
So, instead of blaming Afghanistan, it's time for Pakistani leaders to look in the mirror and take responsibility for their own internal security issues. In fact, Pakistan's role as incubator of transnational terrorism has made it more than simply a regional danger -- it now threatens global stability as well.
Follow Michael Hughes on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mhughes3500