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Musharraf Set To Meet With Karzai

Farhan Bokhari, a reporter based in Islamabad, Pakistan, wrote this piece for

Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's military ruler, and Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, may not agree on how much each has done in winning the U.S.-led war on terror.

But the leaders set to get a face-to-face chance to begin resolving their differences when Musharraf makes a landmark visit to Kabul Wednesday. However, the meeting will be set against a backdrop of increased attacks in recent weeks against coalition and Afghan troops by Taliban insurgents.

News of attacks recently on NATO troops and the retaliation against the Taliban has renewed criticism among western officials against neighboring Pakistan for not doing enough to help quell the unrest. The concerns center around allegations that Taliban militants routinely cross the porous border between the two countries, regroup on Pakistani terrain and return to attack U.S., NATO and Afghan troops.

"Pakistan has to do more to clamp down on this problem. So far, we have not seen evidence which suggests they are being aggressive enough about this," said one western diplomat in Islamabad who asked not to be named.

Western diplomats stationed in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi, who are responsible for monitoring events in the tumultuous Baluchistan region on the border with Afghanistan, have made similar complaints.

Pakistani officials scoff at claims by their Afghan counterparts that support for the resurgent Taliban is coming from inside Pakistani territory.

"The Karzai government's writ stops outside Kabul, they have no control over large parts of Afghanistan. On top of that, there are people with criminal pasts and connections to drug trafficking who are in senior positions in the Afghan regime," said a Pakistani official who also asked not to be named. "The Afghans have to get their own house in order. The insurgency is purely an internal Afghan issue."

Western diplomats say, the complex issue lying behind the increasingly militancy is embedded in issues which relate partially to Pakistan's complacency and partially to circumstance in Afghanistan.

But the political reality inside Pakistan puts Musharraf in a tough position. Five years after the September 11 attacks on the U.S. prompted him to stop supporting the Taliban government in Afghanistan and publicly join the Bush administration's war on terror, he still faces tough criticism from within his own borders.

Close cooperation and a military alliance with the U.S. was a highly unpopular move in many sectors of the Pakistani public, and the recent killing of a powerful tribal chief in the Baluchistan region by the Pakistani military brought violent protests against Musharraf's government.

The killing of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti on Aug. 26, 2006, was followed by protests from political groups in Baluchistan, and Pakistan's main opposition parties used the incident to unite in a new movement against Musharraf's government.

"Afghanistan is an utterly destroyed country. Kids don't have proper schools, young people don't have jobs and there are just too many broken families. The problem with broken families is often that they prompt family members to become violent, steal and beg to meet their needs" said an Afghan official on a recent visit to Pakistan who also spoke on the condition that his identity would not be disclosed.

Ghazi Salahuddin, a Pakistani newspaper commentator for an English language paper, said: "Musharraf's position within Pakistan has been weakened by such events in Baluchistan. If he has to help with stabilizing conditions in southern Afghanistan, that has to be done through taking closer control of Baluchistan. But with such unrest going on there and the government being as unpopular as it is, people ask, how far can the Pakistani government assert itself."

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