General Musharraf is treading a fine line between angering his US sponsors and upsetting Pakistani domestic opinion. When he seized power eight years ago, Musharraf was seen as an ally for the West in the battle against terrorism, a strategic importance subsequently amplified by the 9/11 attacks. The US supplied him with arms and intelligence cooperation, but many in Washington now wonder whether they’re getting value for money. Intelligence reports claim northwest Pakistan is a safe zone for Islamic miltants and the porous border with Afghanistan a gaping hole in the strategy for combatting al-Qaeda.
But Musharraf’s freedom to act is limited domestically by religious groups. 100 militants were killed when he cleared out Islamabad’s Red Mosque – 200 people have since been killed in revenge attacks. Most Pakistanis don’t support the Islamic Militants – but tolerance for Musharraf’s inabillity to control the situation is waning, particular since his botched attempt to sack the country’s Chief Justice, subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court.That affair has cast doubt over his ability to win re-election at the end of the year – he needs to pass a constitutional reform to be able to stand again.