The West, which falsely perceives the Musharraf regime as the only thing standing between it and "nuclear-armed fundamentalists", is finally beginning to realise that he has been unsuccessful in "taming" the Taliban, former Pakistan Premier Benazir Bhutto has said.
Asking why all terror plots from Madrid to Mumbai have their roots in a country which is termed a key alley in war in terror, she argued that the time has come for the West to ensure that democracy is returned to Pakistan, as that is the only way to "marginalise the extremists".
"Clearly, the pressure is on. Western leaders are finally beginning to recognise that (Pervez) Musharraf's regime has been unsuccessful in taming the Taliban, which has regrouped in the tribal areas of Pakistan while the military regime has given up trying to establish order on the Afghan border.
"At the same time, the regime has strategically chosen to help the United States when international criticism of the terrorists' presence becomes strident," Bhutto said in an opinion piece in The Washington Post published today.
"The arrest of Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, a top Taliban strategist, by Pakistani authorities late last month is a case in point.
The timing, right on the heels of American and British pleas for renewed toughness, is too convenient," she said adding "Akhund was arrested solely to keep Western governments at bay."
In the article, "A False Choice for Pakistan", the Pakistan People's Party chief said, "For too long, the international perception has been that Musharraf's regime is the only thing standing between the West and nuclear-armed fundamentalists. Nothing could be further from the truth."
Bhutto, slamming both the West and the Musharraf regime, asked a basic question -- why a key ally like Pakistan in the war against terror, which is the fifth largest recipient of American assistance, should have all terror plots -- from Madrid to London to Mumbai -- have the roots in that country?
"Pakistan's military and intelligence services have, for decades, used religious parties for recruits. Political madrassas... Have spread by the tens of thousands," she maintained, sharply rebuking the West and the US for aligning with dictatorships like those in Pakistan.
"The West has been shortsighted in dealing with Pakistan. When the US aligns with dictatorships and totalitarian regimes, it compromises the basic democratic principles of its foundation -- namely, life, liberty and justice for all."
"Dictatorships such as Musharraf's suppress individual rights and freedoms and empower the most extreme elements of society.
Oppressed citizens, unable to represent themselves through other means, often turn to extremism and religious fundamentalism," Bhutto said.
"Restoring democracy through free, fair, transparent and internationally supervised elections is the only way to return Pakistan to civilisation and marginalise the extremists.
"A democratic Pakistan, free from the yoke of military dictatorship, would cease to be a breeding ground for international terrorism," she argued.