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Ahmed Rashid on Taliban advance

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> BBC Online. April 24.
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> Disarray on Pakistan Taleban threat
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> The Pakistani government and army seem incapable or unwilling to tackle the Taleban threat in the north-west, argues guest columnist Ahmed Rashid.
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> Unprecedented political and military disarray in Pakistan and a growing public feeling of helplessness is helping fuel the rapid expansion of the Taleban across northern Pakistan, bringing them closer to paralysing state institutions in their bid to seize total power.
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> 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.
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> Within weeks of concluding a deal with the government on the imposition of Islamic law in the strategically located Swat valley, the Taleban have already broken the agreement by refusing to disarm, taken control of the region’s administration, police and education while spilling out into adjacent valleys.
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> ‘No need to worry’
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> Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani persuaded parliament to pass the Sharia agreement into law, insisting the Taleban pose no threat to the state. Threats by the Taleban to abrogate the agreement forced President Asif Ali Zardari to hurriedly sign the bill, even though he had tried delaying tactics.
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> Only parliamentarians from the Sindh-based Muttahida Quami Movement courageously voted against the bill.
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> “ The refusal of either the government or the army to respond to its greatest threat since the country split apart with the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 reflects a chronic failure of leadership ”
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> 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".
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> In fact the majority of Pakistanis are desperately worried, asking how the state could concede so quickly.
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> The Swat Taleban added fuel to the fire by inviting Osama Bin Laden to settle in Swat, indicating their complete control of the valley.
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> 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".
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> 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.
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> Even more surprising has been the attitude of the army, which has declined all international and local pressure to curb the spread of the Taleban.
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> The army’s only military response was when it bombed the tribal areas after 25 of its soldiers were killed in a suicide bomb attack near Hangu in North West Frontier Province on 18 April.
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> That dismayed many Pakistanis because it showed the army was willing to only attack the Taleban when its own soldiers had suffered.
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> Groups of militias who have resisted the Taleban in Swat and other places were left to fight on their own without the military’s support for weeks on end.
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> With the Taleban taking control of Buner district – although they have now said they will withdraw – and Dir as well as moving north to take over the Karakoram Highway that links Pakistan to China, there is the fear that Pakistan will soon reach a tipping point.
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> With the Taleban having opened so many fronts, it will soon be impossible for the army to respond to the multiple threats it faces.
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> US and Nato
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> The army’s rationale for doing nothing appears deeply irrational to many Pakistanis.
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> The army still insists that India remains the major threat, so 80% of its forces are still aligned on the Indian border instead of defending the country against Taleban expansion.
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> The army has also refused to respond to US and Nato demands to oust the Afghan Taleban leadership living on its soil.
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> And despite US President Barack Obama’s plan to deepen the commitment to stabilise Afghanistan, 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.
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> That rationale is also motivated by India’s friendship with the present Afghan government.
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> 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.
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> With the entire international community now pointing out that the Taleban threat to Pakistan is dire, Islamabad finds itself diplomatically isolated as it continues to fail to respond.
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> For the Americans and Nato the situation is quickly reaching a crisis point.
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> With Washington sending 21,000 additional troops to southern Afghanistan, Nato sending another 5,000 to secure the Afghan elections in August and large numbers of Western civilian experts due to arrive to help rebuild the country, neither the US nor Nato can for long tolerate the stream of supplies and recruits that continue to pour into Afghanistan from Pakistan to support the Afghan Taleban offensive against Western forces.
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> The Pakistani Taleban, even while continuing their penetration of central Pakistan, are also mobilising fresh recruits from all over the country to go help their Afghan Taleban brothers resist the newly arriving Western troops.
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> For Pakistanis and the international community the refusal of either the government or the army to respond to its greatest threat since the country split apart with the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 reflects a chronic failure of leadership, will and commitment to the people of Pakistan.

by teru kuwayama at 2009-04-26 02:38:01 UTC NYC , United States | Bookmark | | Report spam→


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