This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.
President Asif Ali Zardari's government in Pakistan would have the world believe that forging a truce with Taliban extremists in the Swat Valley is nothing more than bowing to the will of the majority. Don't believe the spin. The government's capitulation is one more signal that the policy of fighting Islamic terrorism inside Pakistan is failing, a defeat for U.S. policy and a tragedy for Pakistan's people.
In the last elections, voters in the Swat region replaced a pro-Taliban party with a secular party. This prompted Taliban forces to mount a campaign of intimidation and assassination that the government has tried – and failed – to overcome. The announcement of a truce will allow a version of Islamic law to prevail in the region and offers another de facto sanctuary for the Taliban. For residents of the Swat Valley, it offers more misery.
According to Amnesty International, between 250,000 and 500,000 people have been forced to leave the Swat Valley since 2007. Some of this is due to indiscriminate attacks by the government. But the real problem has been the Taliban's reign of terror. It has beheaded public officials and members of the security forces, closed hundreds of girls' schools, publicly humiliated men who shave their beards and "forcibly prohibited women from leaving their homes unless escorted by a male relative."
The pact with the Taliban represents an admission of weakness by the government. As late as last September, President Zardari wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post vowing to fight terrorism in Pakistan. "The war we are fighting is our war," he wrote. "This battle is for Pakistan's soul." If so, the battle is being lost.
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