Taliban controls strategic pockets on Peshawars outskirts: NYT

January 18th, 2008 - 9:36 pm ICT by admin  

Peshawar, Jan 18 (ANI): The capital of the North-West Frontier Province and the administrative centre for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, Peshawar, has become hotbed for the Taliban.

Taliban militants and their sympathisers now control strategic pockets on Peshawars outskirts, from where they strike at the military and the police, order schoolgirls to wear the burqa and blow up stores selling DVDs, among other acts of violence, the New York Times (NYT) quoted the police, as saying.

The proximity of Peshawar to the tribal areas where the Taliban and al Qaeda have regrouped in the past two years makes the city a feasible prize for the militants in Pakistans quickly escalating internal strife that pits the Islamic extremists against the Musharraf regime.

Though few here believe that the Taliban will rule anytime soon, the police and residents say that by the standards of counterinsurgency warfare the extremists are doing well, the NYT reported.

They have undermined public faith in the government, sown distrust and made the police fearful for their lives. People feel the insecurity is so high, no one can fix it, said a close relative of Peshawar police chief who was killed in a suicide bomb attack last year.

How can the government do anything when the government itself is involved in it? she asked.

The extremists have selected the police and the army, two important pillars of the Pakistani state, as particular targets; the NYT quoted her, as saying.

Last week, rockets were fired at an army barracks in Warsak on the citys perimeter, a warning of the power of the militants to strike from Mohmand, a district in the tribal areas adjacent to Peshawar, an area that a few months ago was considered free of the Taliban.

The army headquarters in the centre of the city were struck last month by a bomber who was hiding explosives under her burqa that were set off by remote control.

At the core of the troubles here lie demands by the US that the Pakistani military, join in its campaign against terrorism, which means killing fellow Pakistanis in the tribal areas.

The Bush Administration is convinced that al Qaeda and the Taliban have gained new strength in the past two years, particularly in the tribal regions of North and South Waziristan and Bajaur. It has said it is considering sending American forces to help the Pakistani soldiers in those areas.

Any direct intervention by American forces would only strengthen the backlash now under way against soldiers and the police in Peshawar, said a lawyer here.

That reaction spread last week to Lahore, the capital of Punjab Province, where a suicide bomber killed almost two-dozen policemen at a lawyers rally, he said.

The standing of the Pakistani military is being further harmed by an increasing awareness here that it is for the first time suffering significant numbers of defections, mostly among soldiers reluctant to fight in the tribal areas.

The defections gain only scant mention in the press, but people talk about them, the NYT reported.

There are rumours of courts-martial, although the army tightly holds the information. Morale among the police in Peshawar has plummeted amid a series of police killings, making the city far from the glamorous posting it once was, when the police were fighting smugglers and other outlaws.

Peshawars booming business in illicit Western and Indian DVDs has been another target of the militants. Many of the citys myriad retail outlets have closed after being bombed, or threatened with violence, the paper concluded. (ANI)

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