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Terror threat hitting home in Pakistan

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But there is a unique variable in Pakistan. Almost universally, Pakistanis see President Pervez Musharraf as the cause of the problem, holding his government responsible for the lack of security. Mr. Musharraf is seen by Pakistanis as playing a double game: allowing terrorism to fester so he can keep the West on his side, then acting when it gets out of control.

For instance, if the government could not control the after-effects of operations such as the Red Mosque, in which more than 100 people died when it tried to clear militants out of an Islamabad mosque last July, "it should have not launched it," says Tariq Butt, who sells government bonds on a Lahore street corner. The event has become a rallying point for militants.

As a result, the growing fear of terrorism has not brought significantly increased support for military operations in the tribal belt – operations strongly encouraged by America to rout entrenched terrorist forces. Instead, it has left Pakistanis ambivalent or even opposed to the war, which, they worry, is making the situation worse.

A January poll conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org found that about 30 percent of Pakistanis think that US-Pakistani cooperation on security and military issues has helped Pakistan.

"Earlier, there was unrest only in tribal areas because of Talibanization, but now it has surrounded the whole country," adds Mr. Butt. "The government has totally failed to control the militancy."

It is on this Lahore street corner that the spread of militancy has been most obvious. Lahore is the capital of Pakistan's most powerful province and is much nearer to India than the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Yet across the street on Jan. 10, a suicide bomber killed 26 Pakistanis in front of the Lahore High Court. It was the first such attack in Lahore in recent memory, perhaps ever.

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