Taliban in Peshawar
Daily Times, June 28, 2008
PESHAWAR: The Taliban are no longer at the gates of Peshawar, they’re inside, making their presence felt in the largest city in the NWFP.
Their brazen movement is a chilling demonstration of the political and military failure to resist a militant Islamist tide rolling in from the Pashtun tribal belt on the Afghan border.
“This speaks of a complete lack of control by the government over the situation,” said Mehmood Shah, a former tribal region security chief.
President Pervez Musharraf warned more than two years ago that Talibanisation, the spread of the militants’ puritanical culture, was the greatest threat that Pakistan faced.
These days Taliban fighters do not sneak in to Peshawar. They arrive in broad daylight on the back of pick-up trucks, brandishing automatic weapons, and threatening owners of music stores to close down. “They had long hair and flowing beards, and were carrying Kalashnikovs. They told me to close down the shop or face the consequences,” said Abdul Latif, a clean-shaven 20-year-old, whose video store received a visit from the vigilantes last week. “I asked police for help but they said they are helpless,” he said.
Even Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Fazlur Rehman, a member of the ruling coalition known for his past support for the Taliban and opposition to Pakistan’s alliance with the US, has rung alarm bells.
“It’s just a matter of months before news comes that the entire NWFP has slipped out of control,” Fazl warned parliament. Officials said they (law enforcement agencies) were getting ready to go on the offensive within weeks to free Peshawar from the creeping insurgency, and an anti-terrorist force of 7,000 men had been raised.
“If we don’t take timely action, we will be facing a much bigger problem,” said Malik Naveed Khan, provincial police chief, whose cousin was killed by a suicide bomber two years ago. reuters
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