ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Faced with a sharp escalation of suicide bombings in urban areas, the leaders of Pakistan’s new coalition government say they will negotiate with the militants believed to be orchestrating the attacks, and will use military force only as a last resort.Musharraf"s "support" in the war on terror was always largely an illusion. His government has been talking to the Taliban and al-Qaeda all along. Musharraf has said just enough of the right words to keep the money flowing in from the Bush administration. The only change is that the new leaders are less willing to say the right words.
That talk has alarmed American officials, who fear it reflects a softening stance toward the militants just as President Pervez Musharraf has given the Bush administration a freer hand to strike at militants using pilotless Predator drones.
Many Pakistanis, however, are convinced that the surge in suicide bombings — 17 in the first 10 weeks of 2008 — is retaliation for three Predator strikes since the beginning of the year. The spike in attacks, combined with the crushing defeat of Mr. Musharraf’s party in February parliamentary elections, has brought demands for change in his American-backed policies.
Speaking in separate interviews, the leaders of Pakistan’s new government coalition — Asif Ali Zardari of the Pakistan Peoples Party and Nawaz Sharif, head of the Pakistan Muslim League-N — tried to strike a more independent stance from Washington and repackage the conflict in a more palatable way for Pakistanis.
They said they were determined to set a different course from that of President Musharraf, who has received generous military financial help of more than $10 billion from Washington for his support.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Not Really Anything New
Pakistan to Talk With Militants, New Leaders Say