'Pakistan civilian leaders should now move quickly to challenge the Taliban and al Qaeda which threaten its own stability,' the New York Times said in its editorial on Pervez Musharraf's resignation from the presidential post.
'For seven years President Bush underwrote Musharraf's dictatorship,' the paper noted urging Washington to provide more effective and realistic support for Pakistan's fragile democracy.
'The first challenge is to choose a new civilian president, free from any taint of corruption or complicity with past dictatorships. The presidency must also be stripped of the special dictatorial powers that Musharraf seized for himself, including the power to suspend civil liberties and rule by decree,' the editorial said.
The US Congress, it said, should enact the legislation sponsored by Senators Joseph Biden and Richard Lugar that provides for substantial increases in economic assistance and tighter monitoring of military aid.
'American aid can only make a difference if Pakistan's leaders are finally willing to face up to the country's problems,' the Times pointed out. It will take personal courage and broad political support, the paper said, to clean up the intelligence forces and finally bring them under civilian control.
'The civilian leaders must acknowledge a dangerous and painful truth. The key leaders of Pakistan's military and its Inter-Services Intelligence agency have long collaborated with armed Islamic extremists operating in Afghanistan, the Indian province of Kashmir and Pakistan's own tribally administered regions along the Afghan border,' it said.
'In their eyes, these extremists serve Pakistan's strategic interests. In reality these militants kill American and NATO soldiers, Indian diplomats and Pakistani civilians,' it told the readers.
Besides, they must address a desperate food and fuel crisis and tackle the deeper problems of poverty, development and corruption that are feeding extremism and anti-American fury, it added.
Pakistan's top civilian and military leaders, who worked together to orchestrate Musharraf's 'long-delayed resignation', must continue that responsible cooperation in the months ahead, the Times stressed, adding that the country's plight is far too desperate for any more destructive personal and institutional vendettas.
'Pakistan's leaders will better their odds if they stop pretending that the fight against terrorism is somehow America's problem and not Pakistan's. They will also have to stop pretending that ad-hoc cease-fires and bribes to insurgent leaders can roll back the Taliban threat,' it added.
Pakistan, the Times said, needs to send its most elite troops into the troubled frontier areas bordering Afghanistan. It needs to spend its military dollars on counter-insurgency weapons, not F-16 fighter jets bought to challenge India.