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Musharraf’s challenge

The end of the standoff between Pakistan’s paramilitary and Islamist militants “holed up” in the Lal Masjid or Red Mosque in the center of Islamabad, Pakistan, reminds me of a similar situation at the Golden Temple, Amritsar that is in the Punjab state of India (“Rebel cleric, fighters given ‘last warning,’ ” World, Monday).

Back in 1984, Sikh militants took over the Golden Temple and were surrounded by the police and military just as the Islamist militants faced in the Red Mosque. Indira Gandhi — then-prime minister of India — decided to quickly flush out the militants using Indian military.

The Punjab state militancy that had peaked during those days suddenly collapsed after that, as the military operation broke its back. Now, peace has descended on that beautiful land. India, and Mrs. Gandhi in particular, paid a heavy price for that peace — she was assassinated and thousands of civilians, police and military personnel lost their lives battling militancy following that event.

Pakistan’s government and President Pervez Musharraf showed remarkable patience because of the women and children inside Lal Masjid, who were being used by cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi and his hard-core fighters as human shields. About 1,200 students left the mosque soon after the clashes began, but Mr. Ghazi had said he had nearly 2,000 followers with him still. Officials were worried since the militants had distributed suicide-bomb vests and even shot students trying to escape.

The authorities gave Islamist militants a “final warning” to surrender on Sunday, but they, Mr. Ghazi and his hard-core fighters, preferred martyrdom. Mr. Ghazi, along with over 50 fighters, perished before the Red Mosque could be freed from the militants’ hands.

Did we reach a militancy peak once again at the Red Mosque? If so, Gen. Musharraf is at higher risk now to give up more than his power so that peace may descend on Pakistan; he has survived four attempts on his life thus far.

Providence has a way of putting an end to things that get out of hand — this could be one of those moments.

DAVE ANAND

Trumbull, Conn.

We need socialized medicine

Kelly Jane Torrance’s review of Michael Moore’s latest film, “Sicko,” was almost excellent in poking holes in his methods and approach, but failed to acknowledge or consider that those of us, conservatives included, who believe the United States needs some sort of national health system or safety net, are more concerned about the efforts to deny people coverage (“Care bear,” Show, June 29).

Whether it be Wal-Mart’s plan to only hire healthy people or the tendency of big business to reward the top echelon with free health care while cutting company options and contributions or shifting the responsibility to the states, what is needed is a minimum safety net with options to enhance coverage at the personal level.

CONRAD F. HEEDE

Chevy Chase

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