Sunday, July 15, 2007

A silver lining in a horribly dark cloud?

Potentially this is the best news in the terror war to come along for some time.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- Militants in northwest Pakistan disavowed a peace pact with the government and launched two days of suicide attacks and bombings that killed at least 70 people, dramatically escalating the violence in the al-Qaida infiltrated region.

The attacks Sunday and Saturday followed strident calls by extremists to avenge the government's bloody storming of Islamabad's Red Mosque and a declaration of jihad, or holy war, by at least one pro-Taliban cleric.

The terrorist murders of 70 people as good news? Well, consider this.

A document announcing the end of the peace pact in North Waziristan was passed around in the bazaar in Miran Shah. The signatories referred to themselves as the Taliban, a term commonly used by militants in northwest Pakistan, though their links with the Taliban fighting in neighboring Afghanistan are murky.

Under the Sept. 5, 2006, truce, the Pakistan army pulled back to barracks tens of thousands of troops that had been involved in bloody operations against suspected Taliban and al-Qaida hideouts, and militants agreed to halt attacks in Pakistan and over the border against foreign troops in Afghanistan. Tribal elders were supposed to police the deal.

Musharraf had clung to the agreement and similar pacts in neighboring areas, arguing that, by empowering tribal leaders to police their own fiefdoms in return for development aid, they offered the only chance of bringing long-term stability.

However, critics have argued that Musharraf's decision to cut a deal effectively handed the Taliban and al-Qaida a safe haven from which to plot attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and in the West.

If this represents a real shift in Pakistani government policy -- if President Musharraf really has decided to stop trying to appease both the Islamofascists and the West and chosen the side of good, and if he can convince his military that their dependence on Islamic fundamentalist groups no longer serves its interest -- then this attack will help reinforce their resolve by proving that the radicals are interested only in jihad.

On the other hand, if these attacks cause Musharraf to lose his nerve, or if the Islamicists in his military convince their fellow officers once again to compromise with evil, it will be a black day for Pakistan and the world.

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