Kayani does not condemn killings fearing revolt in Army

As condemnation was heaped on Pakistan this week for its failure to take on extremist forces following the assassination of federal Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the political and military leadership have indicated that a frontal attack would be counter-productive and could also lead to a revolt in the Army.

While the political leadership articulated this in clear terms through an article by President Asif Ali Zardari in The Washington Post, the military's view came out in a blog written by author Ahmed Rashid in The New York Review of Books.

The President's contention is that “in an incendiary environment, hot rhetoric and dysfunctional warnings can start fires that will be difficult to extinguish”. Stating that the religious fanaticism behind the assassinations of Bhatti and Punjab Governor Salman Taseer is a tinderbox poised to explode across Pakistan, he asserted: “We will not be intimidated, nor will we retreat. Such acts will not deter the government from our calibrated and consistent efforts to eliminate extremism and terrorism.”

Commenting on the silence of the Pakistan Army over Taseer's assassination, Mr. Rashid quotes Western Ambassadors to state that Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Pervez Kayani declined to condemn it or issue a public condolence for fear that it could endanger the Army's unity. The General is quoted as telling diplomats there were too many soldiers in the ranks who sympathise with the killer and showed them a scrapbook of photographs of Taseer's killer being hailed as a hero by fellow police officers.

While the President's article essentially addresses an American audience in the wake of reports suggesting the U.S. may impose sanctions on Pakistan if arrested American national Raymond Davis is not released, it seeks a wider reach in view of the criticism over the latest assassination.

Seeking the trust and confidence of international allies who sometimes “lose patience and pile pressure” on Pakistan, the President said his government's efforts to avoid steps that inadvertently help fanatics was misinterpreted abroad as inaction or cowardice.

“Instead of understanding the perilous situation in which we find ourselves, some well-meaning critics tend to forget the distinction between courage and foolhardiness,” he said.

Amid speculation of monetary compensation in the form of “blood money” being considered by both the U.S. and Pakistan to resolve the Davis-related stand-off while the families of the victims are being pressurised by “religious” right-wing forces not to bite the bait, Mr. Zardari reiterated Pakistan's commitment to peaceful adjudication of the vexed issue.

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