"They would rather have a stable Pakistan — albeit with some restrictive norms — than have more democracy prone to fall in the hands of extremists."
--TARIQ AZIM KHAN, Pakistan’s minister of state for information, describing American officials’ reaction to Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s suspending of the Constitution.
And what we will achieve with this approach:
The [Pakistan] government should focus its battle against extremism on northern Pakistan, where a resurgent Pakistani Taliban helped by al-Qaeda, Afghan members of the Taliban and several foreign terrorist groups are conquering territory and expanding the boundaries of their "liberated" sharia state. The army has lost hundreds of soldiers in a wave of frontal and suicide attacks, and at least 400 troops are being held hostage.
Despite U.S. expectations it is unlikely that Musharraf will use his new powers to step up a military offensive in the north. His first concern is political survival. More likely are a flurry of truces and shaky peace deals with the Pakistani Taliban that will leave them in place. As a timely sop to the Pentagon, the arrests of a few high-level leaders of the Afghan Taliban and perhaps an al-Qaeda leader are possible. But the extremists know that the Pakistani state has been irretrievably weakened and that this is the moment to push their offensive.
The key question Musharraf faces is how long the army will continue to back him. Rank-and-file soldiers are keenly aware of the widening gulf between them and the public they are supposed to protect. The army, already demoralized, is unwilling to fight a never-ending war against its own people.
For now, the judges are gone, the media has been censored, the opposition and lawyers jailed and curtailed. But Musharraf's emergency is not sustainable. Ruling by force without any political support will prove impossible.
The international community has only belatedly realized that Pakistan is a haven for terrorism, nuclear proliferation and Islamic radicalism. Afghanistan's stability and the fate of 40,000 U.S. and NATO soldiers depend on what happens in Pakistan. The spread of anti-Western feelings and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism have been fostered by a U.S. policy that has sought to prop up Musharraf rather than forcing him to seek political consensus and empower a representative civilian government that would have public support for attacking the extremists.
The world cannot afford to let Musharraf's second coup go unchecked. So far, the response from Washington and European capitals has been tepid. Unless the international community acts decisively, Musharraf's emergency will plunge Pakistan even more deeply into chaos.