- The Washington Times - Monday, October 8, 2007

President Pervez Musharraf’s landslide victory in Saturday’s election should also remind Americans of the difficult political predicament faced by the general — a relatively moderate, pro-U.S. authoritarian attempting to lead a nation that is an international nerve center of al Qaeda activity. Gen. Musharraf’s win resulted in part from the unexpected boycott of the vote by politicians loyal to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Although Gen. Musharraf on Friday signed an amnesty agreement permitting her to return to Pakistan without facing corruption charges, Mrs. Bhutto failed to win her other demands, including her insistence that the general resign as army chief before the vote. (Gen. Musharraf has pledged to retire from the army by Nov. 15 if he is sworn in as president.) The election results will not become official until Pakistan’s Supreme Court issues its ruling on challenges to the balloting, which is expected to happen Oct. 17.

While attention has been focused on the election and Mrs. Bhutto’s expected return to Pakistan next week, the security situation remains extremely grave, particularly in tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. As Willis Witter of The Washington Times reported yesterday from Islamabad: “Daily attacks on Pakistani troops deployed to tribal areas have led to hundreds of soldiers being taken captive. Several of them have been executed in recent days. Suicide attacks and roadside bombs have become common. For the United States and other nations targeted by al Qaeda, the tribal areas have become an expanded sanctuary for Osama bin Laden to train and deploy terrorists beyond the reach of U.S. and NATO troops on the other side of the border.”

Today, more than six years after September 11, a large part of the problem continues to stem from the fact that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency remains infested with al Qaeda and Taliban sympathizers who believe that the United States is the enemy. These people work actively to thwart any effort by Gen. Musharraf to take concrete steps to cooperate with Washington against the jihadists who operate from Pakistani territory — especially North Waziristan and South Waziristan. Gen. Musharraf, under intense pressure from much of his own people and security establishment, has undertaken a conciliatory approach to radical Islamists who have been operating from Waziristan that has proven to be an abject failure — one that has dramatically increased the danger to American and NATO forces fighting against al Qaeda and the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. The challenge for Gen. Musharraf, Mrs. Bhutto and any leader worthy of the name will be to stand up to those dark forces within Pakistan who want to perpetuate their country’s role as a haven for gangsters who want to kill Americans and Afghans and promote international jihad.