Sunday, November 12, 2006

Musharraf's Impossible Options

We have been generally critical of Musharraf for his failure to deal with the Taliban in Pakistan - or at least what appears to be his two-faced dealing on the matter (saying he doesn't support them when in fact allowing others to support them, and even for them to cross the border into Afghanistan). But there is another reality: It's almost impossible to make it work. In fact, it is worth wondering if Pakistan is still under the grip of an army that basically wants to use militant Islamists for its own purposes. Here is what Zahid Hussain is saying in this week's Newsweek.

Running Out of Options:
Musharraf has tried both hard and soft tactics to stamp out radicalism along Pakistan's border. Neither has worked

Published: November 13, 2006 issue (Newsweek International)

"Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf ... has run out of options in the fight against rampant radicalism along his country's rugged western border. Thousands of armed Pashtuns took to the streets in Bajaur to protest the attack, and the demonstrations spilled over to parts of North-West Frontier province, which is ruled by a radical Islamic alliance known as the Muttehida Majlis Amal (MMA). . . . Musharraf has switched tactics in trying to deal with the Islamists along the border, alternating from military action to peace deals and now, apparently, back to armed force. Neither approach has worked. At the heart of Musharraf's predicament is the failure of his plan to pacify pro-Taliban tribesmen in Waziristan with a peace accord. . . . Musharraf made the deal under pressure from his Army, which had grown disenchanted with the occupation of north Waziristan and a lack of progress in pacifying the region. Around 700 soldiers have been killed in the area, and at least six middle-ranking Army officers have been court-martialed for refusing to fight. . . . But . . . the Waziristan truce appears to have contributed to deteriorating conditions in the eastern Afghan border provinces of Khowst, Paktia and Paktika. . . . What might work? Maybe nothing, say experts. Any further military operation in the border areas could split the Army. And left alone, the Islamists continue to pursue jihad. Caught between the almost medieval religious fanaticism of the Islamists, a disenchanted Army and the pressing Americans, Musharraf is in a very tight spot indeed.


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