New Pakistani PM: Terrorism top priority

posted at 9:21 am on March 29, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

The new Pakistani Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, tried to reassure the US that Parliament considers terrorism its top priority. In his first major speech, Gilani emphasized that the Pakistani government remained committed to fighting terrorism, especially foreign terrorists using Pakistan for their own purposes. However, Gilani said he would use political approaches as well as military, which has some people wondering whether Gilani will repeat Musharraf’s mistakes in Waziristan:

Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Saturday fighting terrorism would be his government’s top priority, but offered to negotiate with those who renounce violence and give up weapons.

In his first policy statement since securing unanimous backing of MPs in the 342-member lower house of parliament, Gilani termed terrorism the biggest threat to his nuclear-armed nation.

The assurance appeared aimed at calming US concerns about any weakening of Pakistan’s key role in the “war on terror” after the shift of power from its staunch ally President Pervez Musharraf to the newly elected powers led by slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto’s party. …

Security analysts say Gilani’s offer of talks to surrendering militants does not represent a new initiative as a similar approach followed by Musharraf in the tribal belt failed to contain the unrest.

Musharraf’s allies lost elections last month, and Gilani told US President George W. Bush earlier this week that a broader approach to the “war on terror” is necessary, including political solutions.

Given the nature of the threat and the public dissatisfaction with the confrontational approach favored by the Americans, the Gilani speech actually sounds like good news. It promises at least the same level of commitment that Musharraf has provided to challenging the terrorists. Had Nawaz Sharif become PM or perhaps any other party leader, we would have heard something much different.

Pakistan has tough choices ahead. The public will not support an all-out war against fellow Pakistanis, as the elections amply demonstrated. They want more attempts at reconciliation, and Gilani offers a modernization package for Waziristan and North West Frontier Province that is long overdue. He offers the same kind of amnesty that Musharraf has in the past, attempting to draw repentant radicals out of violent groups to marginalize the terrorists.

Will it work? It might with some of the native Pakistanis, but tribal alliances matter more than nationalism. Pashtuns will not likely leave their tribal alliances behind, and so Gilani has to find ways to convince Pashtun tribal leaders to shun the Taliban and the foreigners of al-Qaeda. Musharraf couldn’t find the formula for success in that effort, and Gilani probably won’t have much more success, at least not in the short run.

That means that the US has to keep the pressure on the terrorists from Afghanistan. We have taken care to aim only at the foreigners when possible, which creates much less political pressure on the Pakistani government. Unfortunately, without having our boots on the ground in those areas, it becomes more difficult to precisely distinguish between foreigners and Pakistanis. Gilani will have to engage better on his side of the border to make those distinctions for US forces if he wants to avoid Pakistani deaths.

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Political solutions require compromise made in good faith by both sides. Since the jihadist effort consists of many splinter groups all of whom have shown they will break an agreement when it is advantageous to do so, I anticipate the same level of success with this approach as we have seen with peace agreements made with the PLO organizations. All this does is allow some R and R for the terrorists.

a capella on March 29, 2008 at 9:32 AM

Stopping or creating?

Johan Klaus on March 29, 2008 at 9:35 AM

Gilani is a useless idiot. The only negotiating one can do with sociopathic muslim jihadists is to kill them before they kill you.

I will keep saying this, because it never gets old or less true: When you discover that you are in a fight with a raving, homicidal maniac you have two choices and only two. You can succumb and die or kill them and live.

One cannot reason with a raving homicidal maniac.

dogsoldier on March 29, 2008 at 10:14 AM

Stopping or creating?

Johan Klaus on March 29, 2008 at 9:35 AM

My thoughts exactly.

Red Pill on March 29, 2008 at 10:41 AM

So funding stopping terrorism will be his top priority.

Riiiiight. Howz about trying a rewrite of the Koran, that might stop terrorism.

Mojave Mark on March 29, 2008 at 10:49 AM

…and Gilani offers a modernization package for Waziristan and North West Frontier Province that is long overdue.

Yeah, modernize from the 7th Century to the 11th.

Zorro on March 29, 2008 at 11:39 AM

There is a lot of unfounded faith in Pakistan being something other than an Islamic basketcase. A naive belief that people there tell the truth, that anyone has any intention of weakening either Afghan or Paki Taliban.

Under duress Mushsareef feeds a few foreign fighters to the west to simulate cooperation.

The new dude says to America he wants to attack “terrorism” on a broader front….Any bet that is Muslim nuance for a bigger bundle of money? After all it’s a new party and new leaders. They need to be payed off as do the parties and the new leaders family and extended cousins, even more money, and thats just to prime the well.

Have those new supply lines from Russia materialized yet?

BL@KBIRD on March 29, 2008 at 11:40 AM

Waiting for his actions, before judging.

Entelechy on March 29, 2008 at 2:35 PM

Since the jihadist effort consists of many splinter groups all of whom have shown they will break an agreement when it is advantageous to do so

Just like Mohammad did after agreeing to the Treaty of Hudaybiya with the Meccan tribe of Quraish.

Oh, wait.. keep in mind Mohammad was just a Radical Muslim. In no way does his behaviour influence the majority of Muslims who are peaceful.

aengus on March 29, 2008 at 8:47 PM