The Dawn editorial discussed the issue. Pakistan needs little prodding from outside to fight terrorism today. It is heartening to note that as leaders of the country's two most popular parties and coalition partners in the next government, Mr Asif Ali Zardari and Mr Nawaz Sharif have some understanding between them on tackling the growing scourge. In separate interviews to an American newspaper both seem to agree that the policy adopted by President Musharraf since 2002 has to be revamped, and terrorism must be confronted as Pakistan's own battle, not just as a proxy war at the behest of the US. This is precisely the factor that has been missing from the equation Gen Musharraf struck with the Americans after 9/11. Growing extremism in Pakistan and the militancy the country faces today pose a serious threat to its internal security, democratic institutions and the way of life held so dear by a majority of our peace-loving and tolerant people. That the top two leaders are willing to engage with the tribal elders, some of whom may be harbouring the militants who in turn are accused of staging attacks on Afghan and Nato forces across the Durand Line, should not be seen as soft-pedalling the issue. The Americans must know that Pakistanis, too, have borne the brunt of their right or wrong policies. Unless Islamabad fights terrorism as its own battle and as the elected government deems fit, raining bombs on tribal areas will not root out the problem but compound it, especially if innocent civilians keep falling victim to such strikes. The American strategy has failed in Afghanistan and Iraq; it will not work in Pakistan.
There can be no question of offering the militants a fig leaf without stringent conditions attached, and credible guarantees sought from the interlocutors involved, if at all. This simply cannot happen at a time when Pakistanis, in our cities and in the countryside, are at the receiving end of the extremist militants' killing spree: some 274 lives have been lost in terrorist bombings and suicide attacks inside Pakistan this year alone. It would be wrong for American officials or analysts to draw hurried conclusions from what Mr Zardari and Mr Sharif had to say about a democratic Pakistan government relinquishing its role of an active partner in the global war against terrorism. They must understand that unlike President Musharraf's quasi-democratic regime in office over the past years, the incoming government is backed by a genuine mandate given to it by the people. Hence it enjoys public support that it can count on to contain terrorism more effectively - and decisively.