British keep a wary eye on Pakistan
Three of the four 7/7 suspects were of Pakistani origin. President Musharraf says both countries have a 'problem.'
LONDON AND ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN
They are two countries thousands of miles apart, but the ties that bind Britain and Pakistan are stronger than most. History, empire, trade, immigration, literature, even cricket: the traffic - commercial, human, and cultural - between the two has strengthened every decade since Pakistan was carved out of British India in 1947.Skip to next paragraph
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But in the wake of the London bombings, these ties are coming under enormous strain. Within days of the 7/7 attacks, Britons were quick to seize on a reported Pakistan connection. Three of the four suspects were of Pakistani origin. Two had visited the country recently and are thought to have been radicalized in madrassahs, or Islamic schools, there.
And The New York Times reports that one of the suspects may have met with two known Pakistani militants at an official training camp north of Islamabad.
In Britain, there is frustration and helplessness over the suspicion that a former colony could be serving as a school for would-be terrorists.
In Pakistan, meanwhile, there is indignation and resentment at being blamed for acts committed by Britons in Britain. Beneath it all lurk some of the racial and cultural misunderstandings left over from the colonial era.
"This might well drive a wedge between the two countries," says Vernon Hewitt, an expert in South Asia at Bristol University, in southwest England.
"What is dawning on the British government is that the state institutions of President [Pervez] Musharraf can't really put very much pressure on a civil society that has become very Islamicized," he adds. "I don't think he can crack down on [madrassahs]. It would create such domestic unease that his regime could not withstand it."
Musharraf has acted aggressively in recent days to demonstrate his resolve in confronting radicals. The president, once viewed as illegitimate in Britain because he came to power in a 1999 coup, recognizes that his support for the war on terror since 9/11 has improved his relations with the West dramatically.
Last week his security forces rounded up 300 religious extremists, raiding madrassahs and detaining clerics. But none of those detained has been directly linked to the London events. Instead, there were ranks of militants from two militant groups, the banned Jaish-e Muhammed (the army of the prophet Muhammad) and Lashkar-i Tayyaba.
Rules were added preventing banned extremist groups from reforming under new names, cracking down on "hate literature" and requiring all madrassahs to register by year-end.
But Musharraf was careful to emphasize that fighting terror was not a job for Pakistan alone. In an address to the nation, he said that while Pakistan had a problem, "England has a problem also.
"There is a lot to be done by Pakistan internally. And may I suggest there is a lot to be done in England also."
Musharraf claims that Pakistan's antiterror efforts over the past four years have borne fruit. On Monday, he said that Al Qaeda was too weak to organize terrorist attacks from Pakistan, claiming to have "eliminated their command system there."
Pakistan has indeed nabbed several key Al Qaeda lieutenants, including operational mastermind Khaled Sheikh Mohammed in 2003 and Abu Faraj al-Libbi earlier this year.