- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 11, 2001

Pakistan took a step toward the United States this week, turning against the monster it helped to create in Afghanistan. While Pakistan was one of the Taliban's most passionate defenders ever since its military and intelligence helped the militant Islamic group's surge to power from 1994 to 1996, Pakistan is now the second Muslim nation after Turkey to accuse the al-Qaeda network of being guilty of carrying out the Sept. 11 attacks. It also called for Osama bin Laden's indictment. Having tried to negotiate with the Taliban for weeks, President Pervez Musharraf was forced to admit that further talks were futile. In a move that showed the extent to which he understands his own country's role in supporting the Taliban, Mr. Musharraf also fired top intelligence and military officials shortly before Sunday's retaliatory strikes by the United States and Britain against Afghanistan.
Gone were intelligence chief Gen. Mahmoud Ahmad and Army Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Muzzaffer Usami, who both refused to attack the Taliban. Extremist religious and political leader Faslur Rahman of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Party was put under house arrest. The army's vice chief of staff was stuffed into a strategically insignificant position that of chief of the joint chiefs of staff, a purely ceremonial role. They were replaced with moderates, and new commanders were placed in the more conflict-ridden provinces near the Afghan border.
For Mr. Musharraf, such moves come at a price. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Pakistan Monday and Tuesday, wrecking cars and buses, burning down movie theaters, a UNICEF building and a police and fire station. U.S. and British warplanes using their airspace overhead did little to calm the violence.
"Long live Osama" and "Bush is a dog" were their mantras. They called for holy war and burned images of President Bush and Mr. Musharraf. This violence will provide a security challenge for Pakistan, but compromise on support for the anti-terrorism effort could cause far greater challenges for the country, which is dependent on the international community for economic assistance. Washington has recently approved grants of $100 million and debt rescheduling of $379 million.
Having their likenesses burned in effigy may not have been the common ground the two leaders wanted to share. But Mr. Musharraf's decision to isolate the extremists within his government and his move to break with his country's past support of the Taliban and its "guests" is to be commended.

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