The Storming of the Red Mosque, Pakistani Democracy and General Musharraf

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The bloody siege against the Red Mosque is over, but it took an elite combat force 36 hours to overcome extremists dug into the compound, which lies in the heart of the capital city of Islamabad, and there are ominous signs of the spread of Islamic extremism in Pakistan. The official death toll is more than 80 and includes pro-Taliban cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who welcomed "martyrdom" in a TV interview before he was killed. Critics of President Pervez Musharraf are saying he could have avoided the bloody confrontation by taking firm action six months ago. Musharraf has promised to crack down on schools that preach violence, but allowed an armed camp in the heart of the capital. Is the government too weak to enforce its will or does Musharraf need support from religious parties to stay in office? Is he a real American ally in the war on terror, or will continued association damage US prestige and credibility?