Pakistan releases Taliban commander

The new government of Pakistan has made clear which direction they will take with radical Islamist terrorists: appeasement. They reached a peace agreement with tribal elders in North West Frontier Province and released Sufi Mohammed, who had been imprisoned since October 2001. The tribal elders rejoiced, and suggested that the next step for Pakistan was nation-wide shari’a law:

A spokesman for Taliban rebels in Pakistan on Tuesday welcomed the release of a top militant chief who led Islamist fighters against foreign forces in Afghanistan in 2001.

Pakistan on Monday freed Sufi Mohammad, the chief of banned hardline group Tahreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM), following a peace agreement with tribal elders. He had spent seven years in detention.

His release came after the new government said it would hold talks with militants in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, abandoning President Pervez Musharraf’s military-based counterinsurgency strategy.

“We welcome his release, it is a positive development and augurs well for peace in the area,” Maulvi Omar, the spokesman for Tehreek-e-Taliban (Taliban Movement) Pakistan, told reporters in Peshawar by telephone.

“If the government accepts our other demands and frees all those held illegally and imposes Sharia (Islamic law), it would be good for the country,” Omar added.

The Pakistanis have opened a can of worms, and it might get worse. Next up is a deal to release Abdul Aziz, the leader of the Red Mosque. He was last seen attempting to flee the mosque in a burqua, after a confrontation with Pervez Musharraf’s military that left more than 100 dead. Reportedly, they want to get Tariq Azizuddin, their ambassador to Afghanistan, released from presumed Taliban kidnappers, although Islamabad officially denies that.

Pakistan claims that Sufi Mohammed and his TNSM followers have agreed not to cause any more problems in NWFP as a condition of this release. The new government might have thought to ask Musharraf how well a similar deal in Waziristan worked out for him. The Taliban extremists want an imposition of shari’a and an end to the same secular democracy that allowed the new government to beat Musharraf and take control of the nation. Every attempt to negotiate with the radical Islamists gives the same results — a stronger Taliban and more terrorism.

The US and NATO will now feel compelled to pick up the pace in cross-border attacks. If Pakistan won’t do its part in securing the lands of NWFP and Waziristan, then they have effectively ceded sovereignty, and we can consider that open territory as long as Pakistanis continue to support Taliban attacks in Afghanistan. Sovereignty has its responsibilities, and if the new Pakistani government doesn’t want to meet them, that will have consequences.