Newspapers in Pakistan have broadly welcomed the government's handling of the stand-off with student militants at Islamabad's Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, with some saying the strong approach is long overdue.
Most dailies agree with the decision to mount an armed security operation to put pressure on the militants, but feel restraint is still called for.
One conservative Islamic daily, however, accuses President Musharraf's government of trying to deflect attention from other problems, and says dialogue is still the best solution.
Characters like the two Lal Masjid brothers are to be found all over the country. The war against religious militancy and terrorism is in Pakistan's interest, and the nation expects the government to pursue the terrorists until they cease to be a force.
The government's poor strategy in its operations against the Lal Masjid have made us a laughing stock in front of the whole world... It is a common perception that the operation was carried out to divert people's attention from the government's shame over submitting abusive material to the Supreme Court in the case of the chief justice. There was no need for an operation on an issue that could better be resolved through dialogue.
LAHORE'S THE NATION
The government also maintains that there are a number of motivated hard-line extremists inside [the mosque]... The operation has to be fast and surgical... Any perception of overkill would tarnish the image of the government.
ISLAMABAD'S THE NEWS
Once the dust settles, the federal government must ask the various intelligence agencies about the apparent discrepancy in their assessments on what could happen if an operation was carried out against Lal Masjid and what actually has transpired so far. Those who had been pleading with the government to take decisive and strong action against such elements for a long time seem, till now, proven correct.
The fast-changing scenario requires that the government keep the situation under control so that another operation will not be needed and precious lives will not be wasted.
We say it is the need of the hour that the government should not abandon patience and strategic wisdom at any stage in dealing with the issue. Religious and political leaders should be taken into confidence to settle the issue.
ISLAMABAD'S PAKISTAN OBSERVER
The dictates of the law and plain sanity demanded tough and swift action to end this open rebellion... The State of Pakistan cannot afford extremism and terrorism or any other -isms which obstruct economic growth, sovereignty, independence and bring a bad name in the comity of nations. Political parties and other forces showed sagacity on this issue.
LAHORE'S THE POST
The only way to deal with bullyboys is to confront them. It was six months too late for the government to finally confront these fanatics, whose bravado was but a mirage... Only after the Lal Masjid brigade abducted some Chinese did it dawn upon the government that these clerics are becoming more of a nuisance with each passing day.
PESHAWAR'S THE STATESMAN
People seen protesting on streets... want to register their displeasure over the deaths and the bloodshed that could be avoided. The danger now is that anti-social elements may try to cash in on the wave of public anger.
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