More cause for Pakistan worries
James F. Smith, Boston Globe, May 7, 2009
As if there weren't enough crises in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Harvard Kennedy School fellow and Pakistan expert Hassan Abbas is offering more cause for worry.
Abbas, a former Pakistan government official who is one of the leading scholars in the United States on security issues in his homeland, says in a new article that most attention has rightly focused on the threat from the Pakistani Taliban in the border tribal areas and the North-West Frontier Province. Those are the traditional Pashtun Taliban militants, who share that ethnic heritage with Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan (and who received US backing in the 1980s to fight the Soviets).
But in a new study in the CTC Sentinel, a publication of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, Abbas describes a growing threat with potentially even greater consequences. He explains that the loosely organized Punjabi Taliban -- from Punjab Province, Pakistan's most populous area -- is gathering strength and momentum. The Punjab is Pakistan's heartland, home to some of Pakistan's largest cities and military installations.
It was these Punjabi Taliban, Abbas notes, who attacked the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team in March, among many notorious attacks. The Punjabi Taliban are working more closely with Pashtun Taliban. The Punjabis are often better-educated, and better-trained in the use of weaponry. Abbas, who is a fellow in the Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, says it is imperative to strengthen Pakistan's law enforcement capacity to counter this threat.