Just when you thought Taliban couldn’t get any more sick, new reports from Pakistan that terror chief Baitullah Mehsud has been buying and selling children for suicide bombing missions.
Baitullah Mehsud is associated with al Qaeda and the Taliban and is considered the architect of the assassination of PM Benazir Bhutto, wife of current President Zardari.
The current Pakistani government appears to be taking this threat seriously after years of neglect by previous administrations of Mufharraf and Nawaz Sharif, both of whom coddled and supported the Taliban and other homegrown terrorist organizations.
Current President Asif Zardari said this week that his government views religious extremism as the single greatest threat to the country, and he will not stop until it is defeated.
“Military operations are all across the board against any insurgent whether in Karachi, Lahore or whether he is in any part of Pakistan,” said Mr Zardari. “My problem is terror. I have focused myself on terror. The PPP has focused itself against the extremist mindset. Terror is a regional problem, it cuts across borders.
“I would love to be remembered for creating a Pakistan where militancy – I know it can’t totally be diminished – is defeated.”
A day earlier Mr Zardari gained important support when Pakistan’s army chief, Gen Ashfaq Kiyani, said that the “immediate internal threat” of Taliban militancy was greater than any “external threat” – code for India. Diplomats took comfort that Mr Zardari appeared to speak for the most important power brokers in Pakistan.
President Zardari has reversed course in Pakistan in more ways than one, embracing the Karzai government and ending the practice, perfected by Nawaz Sharif, of holding the hands of religious extremists in Afghanistan.
Another apparent taboo that Mr Zardari has breached is to disregard the hankering within the Pakistani establishment for a religious-based government in Afghanistan that would be hostile to India and the West. In recent months, he has been one of the few Pakistani leaders to befriend Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai. “Karzai and myself are friends,” he said. “Our military chiefs have met, our intelligence chiefs have met.”
Zardari and the PPP appear to be a legitimate partner to the West in a region overrun with opportunists and thinly veiled Talibani. For years, democratic nations have been receiving lip service from the likes of Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif, only to see these same individuals cutting backroom deals with the sort of terrorist that buy and sell children to use as bombs.
There remains a long and hard fight in Pakistan and Afghanistan – two nations that have suffered neglect by their leaders, if not outright cooperation with Taliban and al Qaeda militants. There does appear to be a dawn on the horizon, though, thanks to Zardari and Kiyani’s actions over the past few months. Let’s pray this progress continues.