Pakistan starts a crackdown

Quelling terrorism: Musharraf's policy looks authentic and deserves a chance to succeed.

January 15, 2002

THE SCALE of arrests in Pakistan lends substance to President Pervez Musharraf's speech Saturday renouncing terrorism and banning five organizations.

India should accept that a bona fide start has been made. It must understand that some violent protest in Kashmir is indigenous and authentic, not managed by Pakistan's intelligence service.

And India must accept that Pakistan will still cling politically to the Kashmir issue as part of its national ideology, just as India does.

The secret behind President Musharraf's doing the apparent bidding of Washington and New Delhi is that he has wanted to reverse the "Talibanization of Pakistan" all along. This is his chance.

Announcing controls on the madrassas, religious schools teaching extremism and little else, is part of that. The failure of Pakistan to maintain public education led to their rise. They cannot be reduced until alternatives are in place.

Much of Pakistan's population will support this crackdown, but not all. The two somewhat discredited main political parties that were suppressed in General Musharraf's coup have joined the religious party in protesting it. The contest for Pakistani public opinion is still on.

President Musharraf has not done everything India wants, such as handing over identified suspects or giving up the Kashmir issue. He has invited the United States deeper into mediating it, which India opposes.

Both countries are catering to China and the United States in search of support. Prime Minister Zhu Rongji of China was visiting New Delhi yesterday to sign six agreements on scientific and economic cooperation.

Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes is visiting Washington this week in search of greater military ties.

Mr. Fernandes should be urged to remove the Indian mobilization from most of Pakistan's border so it ceases to menace that country's existence.

India must remain vigilant in Jammu and Kashmir, however. More terrorism is likely, by zealots anxious to foment war and put Pakistan back in the Islamist camp. The Dec. 13 suicide attack on India's parliament that provoked this crisis was such an effort.

India can tell the difference between indigenous violence and operations sustained by Pakistan, and not mistake one for the other.

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