Musharraf's next move

Pervez Musharraf is a lucky man. He made a deal with the devil, and the devil backed out.

 

He needs to turn his good fortune into ours.

The Pakistani president's government had agreed to leave tribes along the Afghanistan border alone, and basically self-governing, in return for their not raiding NATO and U.S. troops across the border.

Be careful what you wish for: The result of the deal was a safe haven for Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida, Taliban supporters and other Islamic extremists - who not only are free to train and plan for attacks on the West, but on Musharraf.

Indeed, his plane was fired on last Friday, and he has survived at least three other assassination attempts.

Musharraf has always been a reluctant warrior against radical Muslims; it's an open secret that he hasn't wanted to upset the apple cart by cracking down on them.

Things may be different now.

The extremists on the Afghan border have dropped their truce with Musharraf's government - and Islamist attacks in Pakistan in recent days have killed dozens.

Then there's the siege of a radical cleric in a mosque in Islamabad: The cleric's open challenge to Musharraf, and the cleric's desire to impose strict Islamic law, forced Musharraf's hand.

The siege of the mosque cost more than 70 lives, but may have provided Musharraf the cover he needs to finally crack down on extremists. Pakistani troops are reportedly on the move, and Musharraf has asked for the public's help.

"The menace of extremism and militancy need to be curbed by the government with the cooperation of the people,'' he was quoted as saying.

We need Musharraf to mean it, and to follow through. If his government doesn't crack down, extremism might bring him down. And remember: Pakistan is a nuclear country. A radical government could slip nuclear weapons to terrorists intent on destroying American cities.

Similarly, if Musharraf doesn't impose his will on the renegade territories on the Afghan border, the next big attack on America may hatch there.

All bets should be off, and so should the gloves.

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