Pakistan seeks peace deal with militant tribe
The release of Maulana Sufi Muhammad in Islamabad on Monday suggests a shift in relations between the new government and militants.
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A few weeks after Ms. Bhutto's assassination in December, two senior American intelligence officials reached a quiet understanding with Mr. Musharraf to intensify secret strikes against suspected terrorists by Predator aircraft launched in Pakistan.
American officials have expressed alarm that the leaders of Pakistan's new coalition government, Asif Ali Zardari of the Pakistan Peoples Party and Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League (N), are negotiating with militants believed to be responsible for an increasing number of suicide attacks against the security forces and political figures.
The new Pakistani government's resistance to US military operations may be sign of a more independent stance than Musharraf's previous dealings with the Americans indicated. The Guardian suggests that Islamabad's new approach is also causing strategic differences between the US and Britain, close allies in the "War on Terror."
David Miliband [the British Foreign Secretary], making a get-to-know-you visit [to Pakistan] on Monday, gave the new policy a cautious welcome. "We need a far greater degree of precision and detail when we are talking about reconciliation - reconciliation with whom, reconciliation in aid of what?" Britain's foreign secretary said.
Deals that created safe spaces and freedom of operation for terrorist groups, such as that struck by Musharraf in Waziristan last year, would not work, Miliband suggested. Deals that involved militants renouncing violence, as Sufi Muhammad reportedly has done, might be more attractive.
Not unusually, Britain is saying quietly and in a roundabout way what the Americans, or at least influential portions of the Bush administration, would prefer to state far more forcefully.
Regardless of Western perceptions, some Pakistani officials insist that Muhammad's release heralds a new era in regional politics. Reuters reports that an Al Qaeda-linked militant commander has declared a cease-fire. But the news agency also says:
...[T]he prospect of peace pacts with militants based in lawless tribal areas along the Afghan border has raised concern as critics say deals only give militants the opportunity to regroup and intensify their attacks in Afghanistan."