Pakistan in quandary over how to deal with rising militant threats
There appears to be little consensus over meeting multifaceted challenges that are driven by varying agendas.
After one of the bloodiest weeks in Pakistan since the new government took office in February, the country's role in the war on terror has come under scrutiny at home and abroad.Skip to next paragraph
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A suicide bomb that ripped the heart of the capital earlier in the week was followed by serial bombings in the country's largest city Karachi. Those occurred on the same day that the Indian Consulate was attacked by a suicide bomber in Kabul.
As the militancy growing out from Pakistan's tribal region trickles across the border into Afghanistan and also hits back home in major cities, military strategists and the new government are hard pressed to find easy answers on how to address it.
"It is not a question anymore of whether we'd like to help the Americans or not," say Ikram Sehgal, a retired Army officer who now publishes the Defence Journal in Karachi. Pakistanis, in and outside of the tribal belt, are feeling the heat from the many battles being fought in the country, and "it's obvious now that the war is our war also," he says.
"How do we conduct the war?" he asks. "Now there is a difference of opinion there."
The bombings came in the week after Pakistani paramilitary forces launched an aggressive offensive in the tribal areas as some militant groups, identifying themselves with the umbrella Taliban Movement of Pakistan, seemed poised to enter Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province. The offensive was seen as a sudden change in tack by a government that had favored negotiations with some militant outfits.
"What we have is a government in which there is still no consensus" on how to deal with the militants, says Ansar Abbasi, an editor with The News, a national English daily. "The new government couldn't possibly have followed [President Pervez] Musharraf's game plan," he says, so it is now simultaneously offering the olive branch and wielding the stick.
On Wednesday, local government officials signed an accord, brokered through tribal leaders, with the Army of Islam, a militant group that identifies with the Taliban in Pakistan. Local media reported that, through the deal, the Army of Islam would give up control of a hotly contested town in the tribal areas in exchange for the release of prisoners. The group would be liable to pay 30 million rupees (approximately $450,000) and 25 AK-47 rifles to the government, if they violate the agreement.