Swat is newest front line in the battle between Islamic militants: NYT

November 14th, 2007 - 8:18 am ICT by admin  
According to The New York Times, the Islamic militants in the picturesque valley are sympathetic to the Taliban and al Qaeda, and Pakistan’s nervous security forces.

In a report by Jane Perlez, the paper today said that for the first time, heavy fighting has moved beyond Pakistan’s tribal fringe and into more settled areas of the country.

“The battles are part of what has become an expanding insurgency within Pakistan, aimed directly at the government of General Pervez Musharraf, the President, rather than at the NATO and American forces across the Afghan border who have been the target for several years,” said the daily.

It further added that many here say that the militancy is fueled by anger over the government alliance with the Bush administration and what is seen as a pro-American agenda that has grown in prominence with the return of the opposition leader and two-time ex-premier Benazir Bhutto, who has accused the militants of trying to take over the country.

The report said that the conflict in Swat reflects many of the reasons Pakistan has become such a dangerous place in recent years: the aggressiveness of the militants, the passivity of the government and its security forces, and the starved civilian apparatus, including schools and hospitals, which has failed to provide the backbone for a counterinsurgency strategy.

“So grave is the threat that more than 2,000 Pakistani soldiers were dispatched to quell the militants in the Swat area in July. But for three months they were intimidated and mostly inactive. Reinforcements sent last week were hit by a suicide bomber who killed 17 paramilitary soldiers. That provoked the government action on Thursday,” it said.

Resident were quoted as saying that since the clashes began last week, schools have been closed, a vital polio vaccination campaign for children has been abandoned and police posts have been left empty. Lawlessness rules, by their accounts.

“The militants control about 10 percent of the territory” of the North-West Frontier Province, where Swat is situated, said Sher Muhammad, a lawyer who lives in the area. “But psychologically they have terrorized the entire area. No one feels secure.”

The daily went on to say that the atmosphere of fear and uncertainty pervades not only the North-West Frontier Province, but is also taking hold in Pakistan’s large cities, including the capital, Islamabad, and the nearby garrison city, Rawalpindi, where suicide attacks are now common.

“Such attacks are increasingly deadly. The truck carrying Ms. Bhutto, the opposition leader, was hit by at least one suicide bomber during her arrival by motorcade in Karachi two weeks ago, killing 140 of her supporters,” it said. (ANI)

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