Smoke 'em out, or pay 'em off

Published February 11, 2005 11:01PM (EST)

It's no secret that Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf has to do a high wire act as a "close ally" of the Bush administration's in the global war against terrorism. But how far should he be leaning toward the militant Islamists who are believed to retain significant influence and sympathy among the Pakistani population, military and government?

President Bush has often sung Musharraf's praises for the job he's done to help fight the terror network -- here's Bush during a press conference in Washington on Dec. 20, 2004:

"Pakistan government has been aggressive in pursuit of al-Qaida targets in Waziristan. And I appreciate the work of President Musharraf. He came the other day, on a Saturday morning to the White House and it was an opportunity to thank him once again for some of the bold steps he's taken."

Apparently those steps now include having one of his military chiefs pay off al-Qaida leaders to the tune of more than a half million dollars. The BBC reports:

"Pakistan says it has paid 32m rupees ($540,000) to help four former wanted tribal militants in South Waziristan settle debts with al-Qaeda. Military operations chief in the region, Lt Gen Safdar Hussain, said the payments were part of a peace deal signed on Monday with tribesmen. It is the first time Pakistan has admitted making such payments."

Doesn't exactly sound like a job well done of routing the terrorists. Liberal Oasis has more here, a good roundup of coverage on the issue.

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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