Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Rival militants clash in Pakistan

The fighting between Pushtun tribesmen and some of their visitors in the Northwest Frontier Province is very significant. It may signal that the militant Islamists have over-stayed their welcome. And it may indeed be a practical outcome of the deal the local tribes made with the Pakistan army: to take the responsibility of policing their own area, as they have always done in the past. The tribesmen may feel they have good reason to drive them out, or at least to subdue them, given the number of tribal leaders who have been bumped off by the local insurgents. The tribes have had trouble with the radical militants just as the Afghanistan government has on its side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
We would do well to avoid jumping to conclusions on what this means for the Taliban. That the Taliban are joining with the tribesmen against the Uzbeks, even though reputedly they have been trained to think like a Wahhabi, which is to discount non-Muslim grounds of loyalty in favor of the umma, indicates that the differences among them have become difficult to resolve. Here, in any case, tribal loyalties are being asserted against at least some of the militant insurgents who claim to be zealous for Islam.
Could this be a turning point?


"Nearly 50 people have been killed after rising tension between local and foreign militants in north-west Pakistan erupted into fierce fighting ... a stronghold of the Taleban"
"...Most of those killed were militants from Uzbekistan suspected of links with al-Qaeda"
"...militants in the mountainous region want Western troops out of Afghanistan, but divisions and power struggles between them have reportedly grown in recent months."
"...Uzbek militants had largely kept themselves to themselves and were not linked to al-Qaeda's anti-Western agenda, but in recent months they are reported to have become more involved in local disputes."
"...Reports suggested that Taleban and local tribesmen had demanded the Uzbeks leave, or disarm, and that fighting broke out when they refused"
"...Each side has blamed the other for the outbreak of fighting."

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