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Pakistan: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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Without a doubt, Pakistan is in severe trouble these days. The rulers have been finding it difficult to keep the country together -  hit hard by terrorism and extremism. Now the Pakistani press and politicians are holding the United States responsible for the mess in the country. But most of the tribesmen think that the double standard of rulers, politicians and journalists are the main cause of choas and destruction in the country.

A comment published by The Nation Newspaper stated that the War on Terror has certainly trapped Pakistan between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand there are missile strikes and the "do more" mantra by the US. On the other, the militants think that Pakistan, the key US ally, is the source of all trouble.

On Sunday, CIA Director Michael Hayden while talking to a private news agency, said that Al-Qaeda was training "operatives who look western" and were headed for the US. He said that in the past 18 months, the terrorist network has increased manifold in Pakistan's tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

The spate of recent bombings in Pakistan bears out the remarks on Al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, the militants, particularly the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban, have indicated that they are willing to negotiate with the government. The leader of the movement, Maulvi Faqeer Muhammad, while addressing a public gathering in Bajaur appreciated Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani's offer of talks. He said that the Tehreek would end the attacks inside Pakistan, once a solution is reached. Yet at the same time, they have also put up a two-point agenda. First, they have demanded that Pakistan must end diplomatic ties with the US and stop its support in the War on Terror. Second, they have asked the government to enforce Shariah in the region. But the government would be hard put to take such an extreme position.  However, there are optimistic signs. The Americans must be told sternly that missile strikes and other pressure tactics would no longer be accepted.

It is good to know that in recent meetings with US officials, particularly Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, almost all leaders conveyed their reservations about the flawed US policy. There is also hope for a negotiated settlement of the problem of militancy. Considering the newly elected leadership's sincerity, the solution seems very much within the realm of possibility. The very fact that the militants have shown the willingness to end their attacks inside Pakistan speak volumes about their commitment to avoid unlawful means. In this regard, the ANP suggestion of excluding Al-Qaeda from talks must be adopted.

It is for the first time that both the sides are willing to settle the dispute through talks, an approach that must be welcomed. There is reason to believe that economic disparity has been one of the main sources of discontent forcing the tribesmen to take up arms. One hopes that the new political dispensation would not fail in its promise of addressing the problems of the tribal areas.
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Muhammad Khurshid, a resident of Bajaur District, tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border is journalist by profession. He contributes articles and news stories to various online and print newspapers. His subject matter is terrorism. He is (more...)

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