PAKISTAN….Violence in Pakistan has been mounting for weeks, ever since President Pervez Musharraf suspended Pakistan’s chief justice in March. Today, a court clerk who was close to the suspended judge was assassinated. Joe Klein comments:

It’s been clear for years that Pakistan is one bullet away from becoming an unstable extremist government with a nuclear weapon. And things seem to be getting worse: This assassination and the weekend rioting in Karachi may be very significant. A people’s movement for justice may well compel a military backlash.

…Which is why we need a serious discussion about the rebalancing of U.S. foreign security obsessions north and east from the I-countries (Iraq and Iran) to the stans (Afghani and Paki).

I couldn’t agree more. Except for one thing: I’m never able to quite make up my mind just what our policy toward Pakistan ought to be. For all that groups like Hamas or Hezbollah or the Revolutionary Guard are dangerous and destabilizing, my sense has long been that they pale in comparison to the ISI. Letting them get more control of a nuclear-armed state could be disastrous beyond anything we can imagine from those other groups. Unfortunately, it’s all but impossible to figure out what set of policies would best constrain the ISI and propel Pakistan along a more moderate, less Islamist course.

Maybe I’m overreacting. It’s not like this is a brand new problem, after all. But in any case, yeah, I imagine that one of these days we’re going to pay more attention to Pakistan than we do now. I’m just afraid of exactly what event it’s going to take to cause that to happen.

UPDATE: Michael Crowley talked to a few experts and relays this: “Everyone agreed on one thing: Musharraf has played up fears of a radical Islamist power grab to freak out American policymakers and ensure their support for his regime.”

Yep. That’s what makes it so hard to figure this stuff out. The games being played are very deep.

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