Saturday, April 25, 2009

Recent reports on the Taliban situation in Pakistan

Some details on the Taliban situation in Pakistan, from recent publications:

Hedieh Mirahmadi in the Huffiington Post [“Picking and Choosing Enemies in Afghanistan,” 4/22/09]

• Richard Holbrook has reached out to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. [Not good news, and in any case a no-win policy anyway; Hekmatyar cannot be trusted.]
• Islamist fighters in Pakistan [where in Pakistan?] have exhumed the corpses of Muslim holy figures and hung their bodies in the city square. These are revered religious figures of Pashtun culture and such blasphemy is correctly attributed to the "Taliban," which is a catchall term for the jihadi fighters. There has also been a rash of killings of traditional Sunni tribal leaders in the area - with reports of up to 120 people murdered - because they won't cede to radical Islamist demands for control of their communities. [This represents a Wahhabi point of view rather than a traditional Afghan or Pakistani view. People in the region commonly venerate the burial places of famous Sufis, as well as even relics of Muhammad; Mullah Muhammad Omar once made good use of Muhammad’s cloak to legitimate his authority. The point is, this move reflects the influence of Arab Wahhabis.]

Ahmed Rashid on BBC [“Disarray on Pakistan Taleban threat” 4/22/09]
• Even though most Pakistanis agree that the Pakistani Taleban and their extremist allies now pose the biggest threat to the Pakistani state since its creation, both the army and the government appear to be in denial of reality and the facts.
• Even though the agreement ignores the constitution by setting up a new legal system in the valley, which is not genuine Islamic law but the Taleban's brutal interpretation of it, Mr Gilani reiterated on 18 April that ''whatever we have done is in accordance with the constitution and there is no need to worry".
• In fact, the majority of Pakistanis are desperately worried, asking how the state could concede [to the Taliban] so quickly.
• The Swat Taleban have invited Osama Bin Laden to settle in Swat.
• On 20 April, Sufi Muhammad, a radical leader who the government and the army have termed as ''a moderate" and whose son in law Fazlullah is the leader of the Swat Taleban, said that democracy, the legal system of the country and civil society should be disbanded as they were all ''systems of infidels".
• The Taleban have now infiltrated western and southern Punjab province with the help of Punjabi extremist groups, the second largest city of Lahore and the southern port city of Karachi. [The significant issue here is the addition of “Punjabi extremists”: where did they come from, and what is their agenda?]
• The army has declined all international and local pressure to curb the spread of the Taleban.
• The Taliban are moving north to take over the Karakoram Highway that links Pakistan to China. [A very strategic place to hold.]
• The army's rationale for doing nothing appears deeply irrational to many Pakistanis. It still insists that India remains the major threat, so 80% of its forces are still aligned on the Indian border
• The army insists that the Americans will soon leave Afghanistan and that Pakistan must be ready with a response to help install a pro-Pakistan government in Kabul.
• Meanwhile two of Pakistan's closest allies, China and Saudi Arabia, have strongly indicated to the government that its continuing tolerance of the Taleban and al-Qaeda on its soil is endangering the national security of these two countries.
• The Pakistani Taleban, even while continuing their penetration of central Pakistan, are also mobilizing fresh recruits from all over the country to go help their Afghan Taleban brothers resist the newly arriving Western troops.

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