Pakistan: Taliban war now threatens to reach beyond tribal areas

(AKI) - By Syed Saleem Shahzad - The Taliban rebellion which has gripped Pakistan's North West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan is gaining strength and threatening to escalate in other parts of the country.

The tribal areas of the NWFP that border Afghanistan are steadily falling to a creeping Taliban-led militancy. Military operations have proved ineffective and the militants have rejected offers of any ceasefire while government offices, the Chief Minister's house and military camps are now under attack in the area as well.

More than 100 Pakistani soldiers have been captured during operations to control militants in the Bajaur agency and the armed forces do not know about how to handle operations in the tribal areas. If security forces use jet fighters, militants slip into the thick forests of Kunar in Afghanistan through the maze of mountains on the border and if they advance overland, they immediately come under attack.

On Wednesday, all exit and entry routes leading to the Chief Minister's House and the Governor's House were closed, after the provincial capital of Peshawar came under intense attack this week,

Four rockets were fired on the airport on Monday and again Tuesday. The main oil depot of the city which provides the city's fuel supplies and power generating stations, came under attack on Sunday but fortunately the target missed or the city would have been plunged into darkness for two weeks.

The Kohot Tunnel, the main trade route of the province has been closed for the last sixteen days due to military operations in the Dara Adam Khail.

On Tuesday, the impartial Taliban commander Abdul Wali declared war on the security forces in the adjacent Mohmand Agency, immediately to the south of Bajaur, and sent hundreds of new militants to attack security forces there.

The region around Peshawar, capital of the North-West Frontier Province, including Shabqadar, Charsada, Matni has been a battle ground between the security forces and the Taliban.

In the Swat Valley, the Taliban have once again reinforced their position by renewing attacks on security forces. In the strategic Khyber Agency which is a main NATO route for the supplies to Afghanistan, a jirga (or tribal council) announced the closure of offices belonging to all religious and social organisations in the tribal agency.

The Taliban seized four containers there this week and militants told Adnkronos International (AKI) that the containers were carrying food items and water for NATO troops.  

“As our national defence strategy appears to have collapsed, our own proxies -- the Taliban and the Jihadis -- are now waging a war on Pakistan itself and have killed 10,267 Pakistanis in five years, which is 6,000 more deaths than the total number of Pakistani lives lost in the Pakistan-India War of 1965, ” wrote Farrukh Saleem, Executive Director of Center for Research and Security Studies, a regional security think tank recently. "It's neither about religion nor about tribal traditions.

 “Our national defence strategy has long been dependent on the use of the Taliban in the West and the Jihadis pinning down elements of India's 9, 10, 14, 15 and 16 Corps in the north-east.” Saleem said.

After the devastating suicide attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad killed more than 80 people and injured 260 others on Saturday the sense of vulnerability to the militants has deepened in Pakistan.

“As a military officer who served for 40 years I can tell that we can defeat any army of the world but cannot motivate our men to fight against our own people,” said Retired Major General Jamshed Ayaz in a local TV talk show. Jamshed is the head of a national think-tank called the Institute of Regional Studies.

According to the senior government sources, Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari talked to US officials about establishing a joint force comprising Americans, Afghans and Pakistanis to hunt down the Taliban.

The prime minister advisor on Interior Affairs, Rehman Malik tried to approach Taliban commander, Baitullah Mehsud, in South Wazirsitan and Tehreek-e-Taliban leader, Maulana Faqir Muhammed, in Bajaur to solicit a ceasefire agreement. But militant sources told AKI that the government offer was rejected by the militants.

“After 9/11, we have lost at least two legs of our national defence strategy. As if losing two legs wasn't enough, our Jihadis and our Taliban, the very tools of our foreign policy, are on the loose," said Saleem.

"Our ex-proxies are hitting back at the very soul of Pakistan. It's neither about religion nor about tribal traditions. This is an active insurgency whereby our ex-proxies are struggling to suck the soul out of the nation-state called the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and then hold physical terrain from where they can affect their agenda.

"Our one-time proxies have challenged the state for control of a portion of its territory. The outside world, meanwhile, is out to contain us and stop our violence from spreading. Our national defence strategy has long been due for a major makeover. But, we have long been in a state of denial. Pakistan is truly under siege; under siege because of the proxies we keep.”


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