Pakistan: The Militant Jihadi Challenge
Asia Report N°164, International Crisis Group
13 March 2009
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The recent upsurge of jihadi violence in Punjab, the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan’s provincial capital, Quetta, demonstrates the threat extremist Sunni-Deobandi groups pose to the Pakistani citizen and state. These radical Sunni groups are simultaneously fighting internal sectarian jihads, regional jihads in Afghanistan and India and a global jihad against the West. While significant domestic and international attention and resources are understandably devoted to containing Islamist militancy in the tribal belt, that the Pakistani Taliban is an outgrowth of radical Sunni networks in the country’s political heartland is too often neglected. A far more concerted effort against Punjab-based Sunni extremist groups is essential to curb the spread of extremism that threatens regional peace and stability. As the international community works with Pakistan to rein in extremist groups, it should also support the democratic transition, in particular by reallocating aid to strengthening civilian law enforcement.
The Pakistani Taliban, which increasingly controls large swathes of FATA and parts of NWFP, comprises a number of militant groups loosely united under the Deobandi Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that have attacked not just state and Western targets, but Shias as well. Their expanding influence is due to support from long-established Sunni extremist networks, based primarily in Punjab, which have served as the army’s jihadi proxies in Afghanistan and India since the 1980s. Punjab-based radical Deobandi groups like the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and its offshoot Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) provide weapons, recruits, finances and other resources to Pakistani Taliban groups, and have been responsible for planning many of the attacks attributed to FATA-based militants. The SSP and LJ are also al-Qaeda’s principal allies in the region.
Other extremist groups ostensibly focused on the jihad in Kashmir, such as the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, are also signatories to al-Qaeda’s global jihad against the West, and have been active in local, regional and international jihads. Their continued patronage by the military, and their ability to hijack major policy areas, including Pakistan’s relations with India, Afghanistan and the international community, impede the civilian government’s ongoing efforts to consolidate control over governance and pursue peace with its neighbours.
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