Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pakistan: New Government to Negotiate with terrorists

I live in fear of this happening here.

(Unfortunately, I can all too easily see it happening when/if Obama takes office.)

THE new government due to take office in Pakistan next week has indicated it will open negotiations with the al-Qa'ida and Taliban-linked terrorists responsible for a wave of attacks across the country, a day after twin suicide blasts killed at least 31 people in the city of Lahore.

Protesters took to the streets of Lahore to denounce President Pervez Musharraf over the wave of jihadi suicide attacks, labelling him a "dog" and a "pimp" for his policies against the militants that have provoked the violence.

Lahore, a city of seven million, is Pakistan's political and cultural capital.

Ahsan Iqbal, a spokesman for the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) that is set to form part of the country's new coalition government, claimed Mr Musharraf had carried out indiscriminate operations against militants in the tribal areas close to the Afghanistan border that opened new fault lines in Pakistani society.

The bombing campaign has claimed more than 600 lives in the past few months,

...and was set off by the storming by security forces last July of the Red Mosque in Islamabad, to put down a rebellion by pro-al-Qa'ida and pro-Taliban students. Hundreds of suicide bombers then vowed to wage the campaign now being seen.

While the Musharraf regime's intelligence agencies have been double-dealing with the militants, the regime has been following a hardline military strategy in the tribal areas, which has caused hundreds of casualties among combatants and non-combatants.

Yesterday, Mr Musharraf condemned the Lahore bombings as "savage" and vowed to fight terrorism "with full force".

But there were indications the incoming, democratically elected government due to take office next week was under pressure to adopt a different stance on how to deal with the jihadis.

Leading commentator Karan Shafi said the new government would "avoid heavy-handed operations that have caused civilian casualties and given militants a propaganda coup".

The government's approach was likely to be "we have to speak to them, they are our own people, and convince them to get away from terrorism, and, if need be, we will fight them".

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, whose Pakistan Muslim League will be a main component in the coalition and has close links to Islamist groups, has demanded "an end to the policy of killing our own people" at the behest of the Americans.

The coalition's other component, the Pashtun Awami National Party, which is based in the North West Frontier Province, achieved electoral success on the basis of a one-word slogan - "peace" - and has demanded an end to military operations.