The time to stop violence in Pakistan is now
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has the toughest job in the entire world right now.
Of course, it isn't as if the job wasn't hard enough before the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan and the first woman to lead a Muslim country, had previously described herself as the person Muslim extremists fear most.
She may have been right, as an Al Qaida-linked Pakistani extremist attacked Bhutto as she attended a Pakistan People's Party rally in Rawalpindi.
Since Bhutto's death, the powderkeg that is Pakistan has exploded, as PPP supporters have taken to the streets and rioting.
Musharrif has some heavy lifting ahead of him, as his government has promised to bring the Al Qaida militants responsible for the attack on Bhutto to justice.
However, he need not do it alone.
Word has begun to circulate that NATO may assign additional troops to reinforce the Pakistani border in order to prevent Taliban and Al Qaida militants from passing back and forth at will.
This is a good start.
However, this is also an opportunity for the Commonwealth to pitch in stabilizing a critical member state by way of a peacekeeping mission. With 58 member states with a combined up a grand total of 1.9 billion people, (although India alone constitutes one billion of this number -- but more on this shortly) the Commonwealth could certainly muster manpower to spare.
Fielding Commonwealth peacekeeprs in Pakistan would carry the added benefit of fielding a multicultural force less likely to be deemed an occupation force by Pakistani locals.
To top it off, at least Pakistan, unlike Afghanistan, has a fully trained, fully equipped and reliable military. Commonwealth forces would merely be reinforcing them.
Of course, engaging the Commonwealth in Pakistan is far from a perfect solution. Participation by troops from India, in particular, could only exacerbate the violent situation, and for obvious reasons.
There are also valid questions as to whether or not many African countries, in particular, could afford to dispatch forces to Pakistan. Britain, Canada and Australia would certainly be obligated to help out financially in order to make this happen.
Commonwealth engagement in Pakistan would also have a positive effect on the war in Afghanistan, as insurgents would have fewer places to hide out when necessary: certainly a plus in the books of many. Anything that can help end the conflict in Afghanistan sooner can certainly be regarded as a good thing.
The Commonwealth is certainly an organization that could use a boost to its international credibility. Flexing some muscle in Pakistan, as some other commentators have suggested, could provide just such a boost.
Musharraf would do well to call some friends to help him with his heavy lifting.