Militants capture settled areas in Pak tribal belt despite Musharraf’s emergency decreeNovember 16th, 2007 - 12:58 pm ICT by admin
Peshawar, Nov.16 (ANI): Militants in Pakistans volatile tribal belt have reportedly captured more territory in the countrys settled areas, chasing away frightened policemen, local officials have claimed.
According to a New York Times report, the capture of the small Alpuri District headquarters this week has not only embarrassed the Musharraf regime, but also displayed the militants ability to cock a snook at the Pakistan Army.
According to the paper, there is little evidence that the 13-day-old emergency decree has increased the governments leverage in staving off the challenge from the militants.
Instead, it has proved more of a distraction, forcing Musharraf to concentrate on his own political survival.
The success of the militants in Swat has caused new concern in Washington about the ability and the will of Pakistani forces to fight the militants who are now training their sights directly on the Pakistan Government, besides NATO and American forces across the border in Afghanistan.
The NYT quoted Alpuri Mayor Ibad Khan as saying that the district police officer ran away from the station as soon as the militants entered the area.
Though briefings by the government and the military brass are aimed at convincing foreign countries about the feasibility of the government offensive, the presentation so far only underscores the Pakistan Armys lack of counterinsurgency skills as it tries to battle about 400 well-supplied and well-trained militants in the region.
In the past, the government has relied on paramilitary forces, the Frontier Corps and the constabulary to control Swat, which is part of North-West Frontier Province.
More than 2,000 Pakistani Army soldiers were deployed to the province in July, but they remained largely inactive, intimidated by the militants ability to capture soldiers.
Armed Forces spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said the army is yet to clear the main road in Alpuri.
The local militants in Swat are led by Maulana Fazlullah, a charismatic Islamic cleric, and are fortified by Islamic fighters of Uzbek, Tajik and Chechen origin, the residents say.
Fazlullah leads the Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Laws, a Taliban-style group that has forced the closing of schools for girls and shut down video stores. He delivers his message on FM radio, a technique that the government has not curbed. Civilians in the area said the arrival of the army three days ago is not reassuring.
Even though the militants numbered only in the hundreds, they would give a tough time to the army, and they will cost the army a lot, says Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a military analyst in Lahore.
He said the army would probably be able to expel the militants from the cities and towns. But the militants would take shelter in the mountains, and could survive the winter unscathed.
Another problem is the intense barrage of propaganda from the religious clerics in the region. The messages exhorting soldiers not to fight a foreigners war, meaning a war on behalf of the United States, has undermined the morale of the government paramilitary forces that were leading the fight, Rizvi claimed. (ANI)