Friday, April 25, 2008
There have been some interesting developments — or non-developments — in the Pakistani sector of the Terror War since the February election in which the party and policy of President Pervez Musharraf were soundly repudiated.
The awful wave of suicide attacks which has plagued the country for the past several years, claiming thousands of lives, has vanished — into the mists, as it were — as the new government plays its hand in a very different way.
Rather than trying to bomb the “militants” into submission, the Pakistani government is now letting people go about their lives in relative peace, and presto change-o, the “militants” are suddenly not so militant after all.
As Ishtiaq Mahsud, Riaz Khan and Stephen Graham report for the Associated Press via the International Herald Tribune:
A Taliban commander wanted in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has urged his followers to halt violence as Pakistan’s new government steps up peace talks in hopes of turning a rising tide of Islamic militancy.
Followers of Baitullah Mehsud [photo], considered Pakistan’s top Taliban commander, distributed fliers in his name around the lawless region on the Afghan border telling his supporters not to break a ban on acts of “hostility.”
A copy of the flier obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday warned that those who disobeyed the order would be “strung upside down in public and punished.”
Apparently when they say “knock it off!”, they’re not kidding.
Pakistan has enjoyed a monthlong respite from a wave of devastating suicide bombings blamed on Islamic militants that included the December assassination of Bhutto. The army and the militants have been observing an unofficial cease-fire for more than a month.
The lull follows the election of a new government which has vowed to negotiate with militants who renounce violence and sought to distance itself from the strong-arm tactics of U.S.-backed President Pervez Musharraf, whose influence is fading.
and so on.
Maulvi Umar, a spokesman for Mehsud, told AP that militants across the region were ready for peace if the government met their demands to withdraw the army and release militant prisoners.
U.S. officials have voiced some support for the government’s peace initiative, while urging the government to exclude Taliban and al-Qaida figures suspected of orchestrating attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan — and perhaps plotting major terrorist attacks in the West.
Of course this development puts “U.S. officials” in a bit of a spot: they have to say they support any government initiative that appears to reduce terrorism, even while their government’s official policy is to instigate terrorism.
For in-the-know “U.S. officials”, things must look grim, and the longer the “unofficial cease-fire” holds, the grimmer they will look.
Despite the most fervent wishes of those who would steer the course of history in more extremist directions, Pakistan had an actual election and the people spoke.
And even after all the damage he has done to the rule of law in his country, Musharraf’s power is waning, the “war on terror” is fizzling, peace is breaking out in the “lawless frontier regions”, and Bush’s number one ally in the so-called Global War On Terror is showing how to de-escalate a “crisis” fomented by the previous government.
It remains to be seen whether anything of the sort can happen in the United States.
Pakistan has the advantage of a pro-democracy movement led by the country’s lawyers and journalists.
But the U.S. has Predators and Reapers and no compunctions about using them.
If ever there were a situation where a drone needed to drop a bomb to kick-restart a nasty little war, this would seem to be it.
But don’t worry — they didn’t get the idea from me!