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Pacifying Pashtun Borderlands

Pakistan's beleaguered western Pashtun border region is often in the headlines. The still unconfirmed death of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud created immense international media attention. While government regulations and fear of the Taliban keep many journalists away from reporting from the secluded region, media outlets are trying hard to find new angles on the story.

Most reporters and commentators have painted the region in the bleakest possible terms, warning how big a threat it could be to regional and global security.

But when Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari announced some much-needed reforms for the tribal areas, hardly anyone seemed to take notice. Though the reforms are half measures at best, they are a good beginning.

Most Western leaders have now concluded that the pacification of the Pashtun border region in Pakistan and Afghanistan will require painstaking political reforms, reconciliation with the militants, and investment in human and economic development. And that military force alone will never succeed.

But the media is still more interested in reporting the killing and capturing of a few extremists while ignoring how tens of millions of Pashtun civilians have suffered at the hands of the extremists and those who came to hunt them.

-- Abubakar Siddique

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