In northwestern Pakistan, where militants rule
Foreign jihadists in an ungoverned tribal belt kill leaders, recruit locals.
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Terrorist leaders have found wide latitude in FATA because Pakistan's government has a negligible presence there. It leaves control of the area to tribal leaders, but terrorists have killed these leaders, leaving the area essentially ungoverned.Skip to next paragraph
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"What they have done is target all those people who have influence," says Khan, who has come to Peshawar University to study political science and speaks fluent English. "Everyone is fed up with these people, but there is no one to lead them."
Little is known about the Taliban recruiters, he says. They move about in stealth, driving cars with tinted windows and emerging only masked or in sunglasses. Khan calls them "Uzbeks," saying they have no land or family in the area – meaning the local population has no recourse against them.
Another student, Naveed Iqbal from Malakand, a district bordering FATA, tells of how a masked man stepped from a car in the main bazaar, walked to a shopkeeper and asked for money. When he was refused, he shot the shopkeeper dead.
The story is met with nods from the others. "The people have created a reign of terror so no one will question their rule," says Gul Marjan, a student from South Waziristan.
As a member of a political party that opposes the jihad in Afghanistan, Mr. Marjan's parents do not allow him to leave the house after sunset when he is at home. Already, four of his colleagues have been killed.
Like the others, however, Marjan disputes the commonly held idea that terrorists have been radicalized at Islamic seminaries, called madrassahs.
"In Waziristan, there is not a single madrassah-educated Taliban," he says.
Instead, he says, they are drawn from the ranks of criminals and the destitute. The criminals "want to exercise their authority," says Lateef Khan, a second student from Malakand.
Khalid Aziz Khan, the student from North Waziristan, says a childhood friend, who dropped out in the sixth grade is typical of those who can be "brainwashed." Already, he has been sent to Afghanistan twice on suicide bomb missions, though both times he failed to detonate the bomb.
To drive out extremism, the help of the Pakistani Army would be welcome, he says. But military efforts in Waziristan have created more enemies than they have eliminated – overreliance on artillery and airstrikes has caused widespread collateral damage, the two students from Waziristan say.
"This is a true guerrilla war, and in a guerrilla war you need the support of the people," says Khan.
Moreover, there is the sense that Pakistan is not serious in its efforts to destroy militant networks. Marjan's uncle, Haji Sharif, is a well-known militant – he participated in the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s as well as the Taliban army of the 1990s.
Yet Marjan says his uncle often drives to Peshawar, the capital of the neighboring North West Frontier Province – passing more than 20 checkpoints – and has met with the regional governor there. "Why has he not been arrested?" Marjan asks rhetorically.