As the Daily Times reported yesterday:
Taliban forces have so far killed 150 pro-government tribal Maliks in the North and South Waziristan Agencies and are openly challenging the writ of the government by engaging a number of security forces’ personnel in the area.
Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao told the cabinet that the presence of the Taliban in FATA was a threat to national security and Pakistan’s economic development.
He said that the ‘Talibnisation’ of Waziristan was damaging other parts of the NWFP and that the local ‘Maliks’ and political administration had been limited to their houses and offices, sources said.“The Taliban’s sphere of influence has expanded to DI Khan, Tank and the Khyber Agency, where clerks of the area have started to join them. There has been a sharp increase in attacks on heavily-defended military targets in these areas as well,” Sherpao was quoted as saying.
Today in an editorial today the same newspaper noted:
- after three years of war and many casualties on both sides of the conflict, the Taliban are ruling FATA and their influence is spreading to the settled areas.
- if peace can only be bought by allowing the territories traditionally under Pakistani control to lapse into Talibanisation, the blame for this will be pinned on President Musharraf and his military leadership that was unable to finish the job from 2003 to 2006.
As the journalist has yet to publish his in-depth article on the current realties on the ground in Waziristan it would be unfair on my part to steal his thunder but suffice to say he probably wouldn’t mind if I briefly mentioned what he told me about his findings.
- The old tribal structure of the Waziris and Mahsuds has been completely superseded by the new super-imposed religious structure based upon the local interpretation of Shariat law.
- North and South Waziristan are under complete control of the Pakistani Taliban led by Haji Mohammad Omar.
- While the Pakistan military may have played a significant role in the founding of the Pathan Taliban in the early 1990s, it has no influence, despite prodigious recent efforts, on the movement today.
- Anyone suspected to be a ‘regime spy’ is harshly executed by the Taliban. In their minds the Musharraf regime and the US government are one and the same. Hence 150 pro-regime maliks who have been killed so far are commonly referred to as ‘agents of America’.
- Over recent decades the foreign Arabs, Uzbeks and Chechens (in other words the Al- Qaeda) have completely integrated with the Waziri tribesmen through familial links created by marriage. According to Haji Mohammad Omar he would willingly sacrifice all his sons rather than hand over a single ‘foreigner’.
According to this journalist there is a severe dichotomy in Islamabad’s current stance. He believes that while professing to do all to eradicate Islamist militants on our Afghan border, the establishment has every intention of sheltering the Taliban. Why so? Because in the Establishment’s view the moment the US’s interest dissipates in Afghanistan – whether it be a year from now or five – the Taliban will retake the country, thereby providing Pakistan with strategic protection on its western flank.
It has taken time but, it would seem, the Americans have finally woken to the establishment’s stratagem. Bush made a telling statement during his recent visit to Pakistan, when he said, ‘Part of my mission today was to determine whether or not the President is as committed as he has been in the past to bringing these terrorists to justice”.
This was followed by the US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Richard Boucher stepping out of a meeting with Musharraf and announcing that the US ‘firmly [believes] in civilian rule and civilian control of military in Pakistan”.
It would therefore be an understatement to suggest that Waziristan is proving to be a real headache for the Establishment.