By Joel Brinkley


The United States has begun divorce proceedings with Pakistan, and not a moment too soon.

After Admiral Michael Mullen shot his broadside at Pakistan's intelligence service last week, accusing it of helping the Haqqani militant group attack the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan, Pakistani politicians responded with angry denunciations -- followed by smug, sanctimonious assertions that Washington has no choice but to continue putting up with Pakistan, no matter what it does.

"You cannot afford to alienate Pakistan," Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar averred. And Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gilani confidently asserted: "You can't live with us -- or without us."

Think again. A few days later, the Obama administration opened negotiations to improve relations with Uzbekistan, Afghanistan's authoritarian neighbor to the north. The purpose: to step up shipments of military supplies for American troops in Afghanistan using the "northern distribution route" rather than the route from Pakistan. On Saturday, Pakistani gunmen attacked one of those supply convoys, burning two trucks and killing a driver -- the latest of numerous similar attacks.

Late last week, the White House said, President Obama called Uzbekistan's president, Islam Karimov, to congratulate him on 20 years of independence from Russia -- a month after the actual anniversary. That indicated the beginning of a serious charm offensive. A few days earlier, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a motion to lift restrictions prohibiting the U.S. from offering military assistance.

That set off Human Rights Watch and 20 other similar groups, bleating about Uzbekistan's poor human-rights record, including its habit of jailing human-rights officers and putting children to work.

Well, wait just a minute! Consider the alternative. Pakistan kills human-rights workers -- and its own children. It uses gang rape as a government-sanctioned punishment. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan records several hundred incidents a year in which women and children are hung, set ablaze, electrocuted, poisoned, stabbed, axed to death, strangled or buried alive as punishment for an indiscretion committed by someone else in the family.

Finally, after all the angry denunciations of Mullen's remarks, Pakistani officials tacitly admitted that what he said was at least partly true. Last Thursday, Pakistani political and military officialdom met at Prime Minister Gilani's house to discuss Mullen's charges. While squawking about Mullen, Lt. Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha, head of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, said the I.S.I. does, in fact have contact, with the Haqqani network -- but not with its "militant wing."

Huh? The Haqqanis are a tight-knit family that commands a large, murderous militant organization. It doesn't have nonviolent "wings." At the meeting, former President Nawaz Sharif remarked: "There must be something" if "the whole world is pointing its fingers toward us."

Last year, in fact, General Pasha cancelled a trip to London after British Prime Minister David Cameron accused Pakistan of promoting "the export of terror." Other British officials have noted that 75 percent of all terror plots under investigation in Britain are linked to Pakistan. On Sunday, Afghanistan's security agency angrily accused Pakistan of "orchestrating" the assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani last week. Pakistan, of course, angrily denied that.

So why isn't Pakistan properly designated as a state sponsor of terror? The state certainly is one. The U.S. Congress is already preparing to condition financial aid on the state's willingness to take on its murderous militants. Last summer, Pakistani formally announced that it had no plans to attack North Waziristan, the militant haven, and nothing seems to have changed since. Might that reduce American aid?

Some members of Congress seem ready to fight. Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican on the Armed Services Committee, declared: "We need to put Pakistan on notice: All options are on the table."

The United States has already sanctioned five senior members of the Haqqani clan and captured one of them in Afghanistan over the weekend. A few days ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said "we are in the final formal review that has to be undertaken to make a government-wide decision to designate the network as a Foreign Terrorist Organization."

The Haqqani network is responsible for killing dozens if not hundreds of Americans in Afghanistan -- not to mention that attack on the embassy. So what's the debate?

Well, a terrorist designation would bring larger consequences. The Haqqanis are headquartered in Western Pakistan, despite Islamabad's lame claim that their base is actually over the border in Afghanistan. They are getting assistance from Pakistan; the Pakistanis admit it.

So what choice would Washington have but to certify the obvious truth: Pakistan is a state sponsor of terror.


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