Pakistani forces move against Taliban
The tenuous peace deal with the militants comes under increasing strain as Taliban take areas closer to Pakistan’s capital.
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"What the Taliban did in Buner was against our agreement," laments Haji Adeel, vice president of the Awami National Party which governs the North West Frontier Province. Mr. Adeel complains that despite concessions to the Taliban, such as parliament's ratification of the use of Islamic law in the Malakand division (which includes Swat and Buner), their demands have only grown while they have refused to lay down arms.Skip to next paragraph
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"We're not in favor of a military response – first will be dialogue," Adeel says. "[Force] is there as a last resort."
That last resort may be drawing closer according to Ismail Khan, the Peshawar bureau chief of The Dawn, a leading English-language daily. "The next seven to 10 days will be a crucial phase, as the government will by then open the appellate sharia [Islamic] courts in Peshawar," which are a long-standing demand of the Swat Taliban. Once these courts are in place, any further violations of the agreement will be viewed very dimly, says Mr. Khan.
"It's clear that all parties are now running out of patience with Sufi Mohammad," Khan says, referring to the spiritual leader of the Swat Taliban. "He is fast burning the proverbial lamp oil."
Zardari heads to Washington
Come Monday, Pakistan's lawmakers will resume a special session ordered by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani on Friday to formulate a new national policy to counter terrorism. These recommendations will be then carried forward by Zardari in his trip to Washington next week where he is scheduled to participate in a tripartite conference with President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, says Ispahani.
The building consensus for a more robust approach to tackling militancy is a welcome development, says Rasul Bakhs Rais, a political analyst at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.
"Two things have happened in the recent past," says Mr. Rais. "The posture of the PML-N seems to have become much clearer in support of antiterror policy. The other is from the Army, [which has] obtained the political consensus [it] desired."
Ahmed Rashid, analyst and author of "Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia" is less optimistic. The Army still lacks a decent counterinsurgency strategy, he says.
"In the past, they've gone in with massive firepower," says Mr. Rashid. "The operation is being demanded by the public and international community, but looked at very nervously by the local people. [It the past,] it's led to thousands of deaths and the displacement of hundreds of thousands."
Both analysts agree that past failures mean the United States faces political pressure to tie any economic aid to Pakistan to concrete results. Earlier this month, a group of wealthy nations pledged in Tokyo to givePakistan $5.28 billion over the next two years to help shore up itsslumping economy and fragile civilian government.But attaching conditions, such as handing over disgraced nuclear scientist Dr. AQ Khan, or telling the Pakistanis forcefully that military aid must not be used against India, may prove to be a bitter pill to swallow.
However, the time for action is now, says Rashid.
"It's clear this is now a multiethnic movement including all ethnic groups and militants who belong to these groups, whether in Punjab or in Karachi," he says. "They have different antecendents – many were formed to fight in Kashmir, but they now seem to be in broader alliance under leadership from Al Qaeda."