Pakistan's Musharraf

A president's promise

kept raises standing

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has promised to deal "firmly and swiftly" with agitators who've staged violent demonstrations against the United States' action in Afghanistan. Unlike many ostensible allies in the Middle East, Gen. Musharraf is proving himself a friend indeed.

In the process of helping the alliance against terrorism, the general may save his own nation from the fate suffered by Afghanistan.

Despite serious internal opposition to his support for America's war on terrorism, Musharraf is staying the course. Just before the air war began, he reshuffled Pakistan's military to give pro-Western generals day-to-day command of troops and put Islamic fundamentalists in less sensitive administrative positions.

When he came to power, following a coup in 1995, Musharraf didn't seem destined to become a key U.S. ally. Granted, the general had a reputation for integrity in a notoriously corrupt country.

But Musharraf was installed by the same Islamacists in the military he's now moving against. In fact, Pakistan's army and intelligence service played a crucial role in the creation of Afghanistan's Taliban regime.

Though it was a staunch American ally during the Cold War, since the fall of the Kremlin, Pakistan has drifted further and further toward anti-Americanism and Islamic fundamentalism, which usually go hand in hand.

Western-leaning intellectuals and businessmen are hoping that - by aligning their nation with Washington - the war in Afghanistan will pull Pakistan back from the brink. On the other hand, if fundamentalists win the battle of the streets now under way, it would push the nation into the abyss. No one knows this better than Musharraf.

- The Boston Herald

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