Alarming Increase in Taliban Activities in Pakistan
There has been an alarming increase in Taliban activities in and around Peshawar while militancy is also on the rise in Federal Areas and Tribal Areas (FATA) and the rest of the North West Frontier Province.
In a surprising development, scores of Taliban militants have been seen patrolling Peshawar streets, as was reported by local newspapers. It is the first incident of its kind and should ring an alarm bell for the concern authorities. Recently, a military cantonment in Landi Kotal, headquarters of the Khyber Agency, came under rocket attacks from militants belonging to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which claims 10 people’s lives, mostly of civilians.
The TTP, mainly based in remote Waziristan since its inception in December 2007, has tried to take control of the strategically important Khyber Agency, primarily to disrupt NATO supplies. But after some early failures, the group has significantly increased its activities and influence in the area.
Local security analysts view that an all-out, daring attack by Taliban militants on a military cantonment is a new trend which has dangerous consequences for the country. The situation is heading alarmingly towards a direction that will put more pressure on the Pakistani forces.
Fears are also being expressed that attacks on military cantonments could also be aimed at seizing heavy weapons in bulk to fight more effectively. If militants are able to take control of Landi Kotal, it could critically hit NATO.
As if attacks on NATO supplies transport terminals were not enough, a general manager of one of the terminals, Al Faisal, Mr Waqar Ahmed Mir, who had come from Karachi to assess the damage, was kidnapped in the Bhana Marri area of Peshawar. The local police are still clueless of his whereabouts.
In another major development, some 60 alleged Taliban militants attacked Malakand University, situated in Lower Dire district, close to the on edge of Swat Valley, a stronghold of the TTP. In the attack, five security personnel were killed. Ironically, TTP militants afterwards disowned the attack and claimed arresting the accused and presenting them before Shariah courts, run by them in Swat. NWFP Information Minister, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, has condemned the Dire incident, and demanded the Taliban "hand over" the culprits." After the promulgation of Islamic law, there is no question of such incidents by militants. However, efforts by Tehreek-e-Nafaaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi Chief, Maulana Sufi Mohammad, and TTP regional commander, Fazlullah (Son-in-Law of Sufi Mohammad), to bring the culprits to ‘justice’ are commendable," the minister said.
This shows the eroding writ of the NWFP government and the state in the Taliban-infested areas and the defensive attitude of the government. This follows on the fact that the NWFP Senior Minister, belonging to the ANP, Haji Bashir Ahmad Bilour, survived a second suicide attack a couple of weeks ago. Sources in the provincial government and the ANP say the NWFP government's resolve to fight the Taliban is badly dented and the leadership has adopted a 'soft' approach towards the militants. This is primarily to save their own skin and buy their own security against Taliban attacks.
The attack on Malakand University is again the first of its kind and indicates that the militants are going to launch more strikes on universities in the NWFP. If they are not controlled, it would put the future of thousands of students, who are critical to the development and survivability of the Frontier's society from fully falling into the lap of militants and extremists, at stake. Malakand University Vice-Chancellor, Dr Rasool Jan, said, "The attacks have not broken our resolve to continue the process of education," but another aborted attack by militants on Malakand University may prove otherwise.
Not only in tone but in fact, the appeasement of the provincial government of the Taliban is growing. It has released 34 Taliban in Swat, including commander Samiullah, for eight officials held by militants. TTP militants in Swat demanded the release of 220 people earlier.
A Malakand University official, seeking anonymity, disclosed that the university had received several threats from the Swati Taliban to ban the entry of girl students or get ready for attacks. The attack on the university is primarily aimed at stopping girls from attending the institution. This is in line with the general policy of the Taliban in the area.
Unlike Swat, the Dir area has been quite peaceful in recent years and it even resisted Taliban efforts to convert it into their base. The attacks in Dir are alarming, as the Taliban may turn it into another stronghold, with international repercussions, as Dir is adjacent to Afghanistan and the restive Bajaur Agency, believed to be a strong base of Al-Qaeda also.
There are reports of installation of an FM radio station by TTP militants in the semi-tribal Darra Adamkhel area, some 32 kilometers away from Peshawar, on a main national highway which connects the port city of Karachi and Peshawar.
Tags: Peshawar , Taliban , Pakistan
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