September 16, 2004


Dangerous Commission: Pervez Musharraf's war on al-Qaeda and on Pakistan's domestic extremists has earned him many enemies (TIM MCGIRK, 9/20/04, TIME ASIA)

Three times, the enemies of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf have attempted to take him out. They tried blowing up his motorcade twice last December. In August, police in Islamabad arrested 10 men who had an arsenal of rockets smuggled from the tribal territory along the Afghanistan border. According to the police, the plan was to launch murderous attacks during Independence Day celebrations on Aug. 14, hitting Musharraf, his Cabinet and the U.S. embassy. And that close shave came only 15 days after a suicide bomber tried to blow up Shaukat Aziz, a Musharraf ally who was sworn in as Prime Minister on Aug 27.

But there is nothing in Musharraf's demeanor that shows he is rattled. With his confident, square-shouldered gait, Musharraf, 61, moves like a veteran prizefighter. When he met TIME correspondents in his Islamabad salon recently, Musharraf strode across an ornate Persian carpet clutching a memo with the names of 30 al-Qaeda suspects whom Pakistan has helped to nab over the past two months. This, said Musharraf, was Osama bin Laden's "second string" of terrorists: "We know who is whom and who is where. We've broken their backs." He claimed that a lode of al-Qaeda computer disks captured in July showed that the group's leaders have contingency plans to shift operations away from the hinterlands of Pakistan to Somalia and Sudan. And just last week, Pakistan's military said it launched an air and ground attack against a suspected al-Qaeda training camp in the tribal area of Waziristan, killing more than 60 recruits and their Uzbek and Chechen trainers.

In Musharraf's deadly bout with al-Qaeda, the latest round has decisively been his.

If only we weren't distracted...

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 16, 2004 9:51 AM
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