Asked whether the money might win the hearts and minds of Pakistani Muslims, Howard said he'd never confronted suspicion in his dealings with Pakistanis. But he would have, had he walked up the hill to Qazi's place. The United States Air Force Blackhawk helicopter carrying Howard had barely left when the call to prayer echoed, and the mullah with the owlish spectacles expressed his admiration for the Islamic militants who for years have used the area as a launching pad for strikes on India, just five kilometres away across the disputed border in Kashmir.That's the reality there. Mullahs preching hatred and violence.
However, the Interior Minister, Aftab Sherpao, who wears a blue pinstripe jacket over his salwar kameez, warns against unrealistic expectations. "You can't switch with the push of a button, change the mindset of a people. You have to deal with unemployment and illiteracy," he said.
"The Afghan jihad had the blessing of the West, and we are left with the aftermath in the form of this militancy. You can't lift people to a certain pitch of commitment and then just expect them to disappear. You also have to distinguish between a terrorist and someone fighting for self-determination."
When the extremist Jaish-e-Muhammad group - known for its role in the Kashmiri jihad and the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl - was banned, the authorities allowed its leader to register the group as a religious and social welfare organisation under the name of Khudamul Islam.
The Jaish produced the suicide bombers who twice tried to assassinate Musharraf in December 2003. Yet when Interpol, acting at US insistence, demanded that its leader be handed over, Pakistan pleaded it no longer knew his whereabouts.
"It shows he probably has a lot of secrets up his sleeve. The Government is willing to overlook his past, so long as he keeps quiet at this critical juncture," says Talat Massoud, a former general and respected analyst in Islamabad.
It is called duplicity. The statement "All this is for American consumption only" comes to mind.
Another prominent group, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, known to have trained Australian Muslim converts and extremists in armed struggle, is also recovering ground through front organisations, including charitable ones involved in quake relief.
Sherpao shrugs when asked about their involvement. "From a humanist point of view we can't stop anyone helping helpless people," he says.
More on the Australian crackdown on LeT here. It will be interesting to what how NATO forces and the terrorists co-exist in Pakistani Kashmir in the coming months. Will NATO restrict themselves to humanitarian ops or will go after these terrorists as part of G.O.A.T. (Global Offensive Against Terrorism) ?