Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has told the Singaport Straits Times that US forces are not welcome in Pakistan in their hunt for Osama Bin Laden or any other Al Qaeda leaders. He made it extremely clear that the US military mission would be unwelcome and “against the sovereignty of Pakistan”.

Musharraf stated that the Pakistani military has the experience to operate in the high mountainous regions and that if US forces went in, “they would regret the day.”

Whether this is grandstanding in the wake of pressures from the US Administration over the Bhutto assassination or merely Musharraf attempting to sound tough for his own benefit in Pakistan is unclear. A month ago, he told CNN that if there was actionable intelligence indicating that Al Qaeda leaders were in Pakistan, he would consider asking for US assistance in capturing them.

Pakistan is a nuclear power, and as such is often treated with great delicacy, considering its government is less than stable, compared to other nuclear powers. Recent turmoil, including the Benizir Bhutto assassination indicate an unstable path and minimal, if any democratic reforms. Musharraf has declared emergency conditions in Pakistan before, exercising strong powers over his people like removal of the justices of their Supreme Court, and arrests of lawyers to prevent legal actions against him and other Pakistani leaders.

It remains unclear what will happen in upcoming elections for a Prime Minister, but it is becoming clear that Musharraf is unlikely to yield power to anyone, particularly someone with whom he does not share absolute trust.

It is likely a confrontation between the US and Pakistan will not happen on any other front than the diplomatic, though US forces will not likely be deterred by Musharraf’s rhetoric if they have actionable intelligence that senior Al Qaeda leaders are in the Afghan/Pakistani border regions.