Washington, Jan 12 : Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's death not only demonstrates the extent to which the Musharraf regime has failed to rein in extremism and terrorism, it also diminishes the chances of building a moderate, progressive state in this unstable region, a South Asia expert has said.
The situation in Pakistan has been deteriorating since March 2007, said Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation.
In addition to frequent civil protests deploring Musharraf's "heavy-handedness" towards the judiciary, violent conflict has escalated, including: a bloody confrontation between Pakistani military forces and Islamic extremists at the Lal Masjid, she said.
Curtis said that Benazir's return to the country sparked hope that Pakistan could lift itself out of this spiralling chaos, and added that terrorists determined to prevent the emergence of a progressive Pakistan assassinated Benazir.
She said that campaigning on a strong anti-terrorism platform, Benazir repeatedly acknowledged that democracy would help save her country from the terrorist scourge, and added that Musharraf articulated a goal of "enlightened moderation," but his actions have not lived up to his words.
Instead of taking an unambiguous approach to Islamic extremism by closing down religious schools that preach hatred of the West and applying the rule of law equally to all terrorists, the Musharraf regime continues to distinguish between home-grown and foreign-born extremists and to jail more peaceful democratic activists than violent militants, she pointed.
Pakistani officials believe that they can separate the country's radicals from al Qaeda's global objectives and negotiate with Taliban leaders to pacify the situation, Curtis said.
The problem is many of the militant Pakistani groups that previously fought in Jammu and Kashmir or alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan now embrace al Qaeda's global agenda, she noted.
Curtis said that the botched 2006 South Waziristan deal with militants had allowed the Taliban to spread their extremist ideology into other parts of Pakistan.
Musharraf's attempt to find a non-military solution to the terrorist problem in the border areas was probably aimed at avoiding upheaval in the Pakistan Army because of its Pashtun component, she climed.
"The mid-December escape of terrorist Rashid Rauf (allegedly involved in the 2006 plot to blow up planes flying between Washington and London) from Pakistani custody is emblematic of the murky relations between security agencies and international terrorists.
Rauf's mysterious escape raises questions about Pakistan's overall commitment and ability to bring to justice international terrorists with local ties," the Daily Times quoted Curtis, as saying.