U.S. experts on Pakistan say that if peace and stability are to take
root in the region, Pakistan's military and intelligence officers must
sever links with extremist religious groups they have created.
One expert, Pulitzer prize-winning author and journalist Steve Coll,
told the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom meeting in
Washington Wednesday that a stable, tolerant and democratic Pakistan at
peace with its neighbors is in everybody's interest.
Coll said Pakistan "made a mistake" in its accommodation of strict Islamic (Sharia) law in the country's northwest. He called on Washington not to accept Islamabad's action.
Pakistan is under intense international pressure to fight a growing
Islamist insurgency and to rid itself of militants believed to be based
in the country's tribal regions.
Last month, Pakistani officials signed a peace deal with militant
leaders in the Swat Valley region, allowing the imposition of Islamic
law in exchange for a promise from militants to end their insurgency.
At the Washington forum, the head of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (Felice Gaer) said
Pakistan's blasphemy laws, apparent government tolerance of violence
toward minority religions, growth in extremist groups, and sponsorship
of "anti-defamation" laws at the U.N. all constitute serious concerns.
Last month, the commission expressed concern about the deal between Taliban militants and the government in the Swat Valley.
The commission said granting power to Taliban-associated extremists,
who consistently demonstrate utter disregard for human life and human
rights, could result in further abuses and religious freedom