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Pakistan's 'Gandhi' party takes on Taliban, Al Qaeda

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Whether it succeeds could determine whether Pakistan finds the peaceful resolution that a majority of its people so desire or descends back into war.

"The responsibility for a deal lies with the ANP because of the ANP being Pashtun and because they have been very critical of the way the war on terror has been conducted," says Rasul Baksh Rais, a political scientist at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

Facing opposition to cease-fires

The ANP is a minor partner in the national parliament, but it leads the ruling coalition in the strategically vital North West Frontier Province. Adjacent to the central battleground of FATA, the province is the front line against the Talibanization of Pakistan. Rising militancy in FATA has spilled into it with bombings against barbers who trim beards and owners of DVD shops – both Taliban taboos.

Already, the ANP-led government in the North West Frontier Province has had to withstand global criticism for its new, conciliatory tack – such as last week's release of Sufi Mohammed, a pro-Taliban hard-liner, from jail.

The US has warned against negotiations, saying they lead only to toothless cease-fires that have allowed militants time and space to tighten their grip on territory. Indeed, the State Department's annual terrorism report released last week suggested that suicide attacks in Pakistan more than doubled to 887 last year because terrorists were able to regroup during a 2006 cease-fire.

For this reason, a new potential cease-fire with militants in FATA, reported last week but apparently abandoned, raised deep concern in Washington.

"It's important that any agreement be effectively enforced and that it not interrupt any operations where we are going after terrorists in that area," said White House press secretary Dana Perino.

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