In an e-mail message to this reporter Wednesday, Benazir Bhutto, the embattled Pakistani leader under house arrest, said, "I very much fear the risk of civil war. The longer (President) Musharraf stays, the worse it's going to get. I knew it was bad but after coming here (from eight years of exile), I am shocked at just how bad. The militants are spreading everywhere not because people want them but because the administration unilaterally withdraws without a fight leaving the people of the town or village at the mercy of the long-haired, bushy faced barbarians who terrorize the local population and subdue them by shooting and killing randomly. I am just wondering how long it's going to be before the militants march on Islamabad."
Twice prime minister in the 1980s and '90s, Bhutto continued, "It may sound dramatic but the picture here is frightening. Pakistan is slowly disintegrating and it seems everyone is paralyzed into ignoring the calamity that is coming. The district headquarters of Shangla Hills fell today. The local population was ready to resist but didn't have the resources. The government didn't send any reinforcements and the local administration disappeared. In fact, it seems like the buddies of the militants had already been appointed."
The Pakistani army ceased operations a month ago against the Taliban and al-Qaida in the tribal areas on the Afghan border. Army units dispatched to the scenic Swat Valley, inside the Northwest Frontier province, have met strong resistance as more militants arrive from nearby towns and villages. Pakistan, one of the world's eight nuclear powers, is the ultimate nightmare scenario. The army is the custodian of secret nuclear weapons sites, deep underground. But the army is in disarray and the widely despised army chief and president, Pervez Musharraf, clings to power by enforcing martial law.
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