A slight irony. On April 7, the New York Times runs an optimistic op-ed by Munir Akram, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN, entitled “A United Front Against the Taliban.” He assures readers that tribal leaders along the Afghan border are being turned against the Taliban, and that the Afghan refugee camps where the Taliban recruit are about to be cleared out (which the Afghan refgees themselves might not consider such good news). He writes that the largest camps—Pir Alizai and Gidri Jungle in Baluchistan Province, and Jallozai and Kachi Garhi in the North-West Frontier Province—are about to be moved across the border under a deal with the Afghan government (where, we note, they will likely remain recruitment fodder for the Taliban).
Pakistan has a comprehensive strategy to promote peace and progress in our frontier regions. The objective is to win over the local population and to isolate the militants. The agreement that the Pakistani government reached with tribal elders in North Waziristan last September was essentially an exchange of peace for economic development…
Creating a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan is as much in the interest of Pakistan as of the United States and the Afghans themselves. The cooperative framework that has been established by Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States, NATO and the international community will be vital for success. But we must ensure that bond is not eroded by mutual recrimination or frustration with occasional setbacks.
Um, speaking of setbacks… Here’s the irony: On that same day, the NYT runs a story on threats by Maulana Mohammad Abdul Aziz, the head cleric of the Lal Mosque in Islamabad, to bring suicide bombings to the capital unless the government instates Sharia law and closes all brothels and video stores within a month.
“Pakistan was created for an Islamic system,” Mr. Aziz said. “But the government, instead of implementing an Islamic system, is threatening us with a police operation,” he said, referring to the government’s warnings of a raid if the clerics took the law into their own hands.
“Rulers, listen! Our last option will be suicide attacks,” Mr. Aziz said.
So while Akram wants us to believe the government is finally getting a grip on the remote Tribal Areas, in fact it seems to be losing control of Islamabad…