Monday, June 9, 2008

Pakistani Taliban: Tandem Talk & Terror

Najmuddin A Shaikh, foreign secretary of Pakistan 1994-97, has warned that valuable time is being lost in the tribal regions and raises the specter of future U.S. military action against Pakistan-based Taliban reminiscent of the bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail should cross-border insurgent operations continue. (The agreement now being negotiated between the Pakistani government and the Mehsud tribes reportedly does not include any stipulation that Mehsud will halt cross-border raids into Afghanistan.)

Even as the article was being published, Tehreek-i-Taliban (PTT) Mohmand Agency amir Umar Khalid was telling reporters that the PTT would continue its struggle against the U.S.

Indeed, it is not clear that these tribes could control Baitullah or what impact this agreement will have on other insurgent forces. Taliban threats against those deemed to be in violation of sharia, Taliban terrorist attacks on girls’ schools, and clashes with the Pakistani army continue even as the talks proceed and arrested militants are released.

According to Shaikh,

While our political leadership remains totally preoccupied with the judicial crisis and the general public keeps clamouring for greater political leadership and action on the economic crisis, the most serious crisis of all — the situation in the tribal areas and along the Pak-Afghan border — does not appear to be moving in the right direction…

Our claim that a multi-pronged strategy of political, economic and military engagement is being pursued in the tribal areas has little credibility for the simple reason that no concrete evidence of this policy’s implementation can be seen. The Political Parties Act has not been amended to allow the political parties to function in the tribal areas; and while the FATA Secretariat may well have drawn up development plans for the area nothing appears in the press to indicate that the Rs9 billion provided by Pakistan or the $150 million provided by the Americans for yearly developmental expenditure is being expended on projects that are increasing employment opportunities in the area. Instead we have grim pictures in our media of abandoned schools and unmanned hospitals.

Meanwhile, unmanned aerial vehicles have reportedly been sighted flying over various areas in the Northwest Frontier Provinces.

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