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Pakistan finally takes on the Taliban




For months now, people in Pakistan and the world have wondered about the inaction of Pakistan in dealing with the Taliban. The Pakistani Taliban (hard to differentiate between the Afghan and the Pakistani Taleban since they both respect Mullah Omar as the supreme leader), already present in the hard regions of Pakistan that touch Afghanistan, suddenly in the last few months attacked a beautiful tourist valley called Swat (not very far from the capital) and started a campaign of attacks, hardline Islam, and general targeting of Government institutions such as schools, police stations, etc. The Government, far from fighting this force effectively, backed down and after a sort of retreat, signed a peace treaty in which they agreed to the terms of the Taleban, with the only condition being that the Taleban will not bear arms in Swat after the deal. However, this was a compromise comparable to the buckling down to Hitler in Munich, and had effectively the same effect.
The Taleban saw this buckling down of state authority as a show of its weakness in front of the Taleban (and maybe a sign that the state was having problems in getting the army to fight against an Islamic inspired force), and started expanding the campaign, thereby using the Swat valley as a base from which to overrun nearby districts. In their next target, they reached close to Islamabad, and the Government let loose a volley of talk at them, accusing the Taleban of violating the terms of the accord and hoping that the Taleban could be persuaded to back down. There was still no direct action that the militia understand.


At the same time, this inaction was something that the western backers of Pakistan were not able to understand; it seemed like a vindication of the fact that the Taliban was not something that the government or the military seemed to want to tackle; and the pressure exerted was incredible. There was a huge flurry of articles and interviews about how Pakistan is on the verge of collapse, that the institutions have lost credibility and were not able to ensure social justice in the country (which encouraged the growth of a force such as the Taleban), that the nuclear arms hosted by Pakistan were in danger of being taken over by the Taleban, and so on.
There is also another view that is seeming to emerge, that action taken by the Government on the urging of western Governments would turn the population further against the west and against the actions of their own Government; already there is a feeling that this is not Pakistan’s war and that forcing the Pakistani army to fight their own Muslim brothers is just not done. The view was that it needed for people to hear more about the kind of society that the Taleban is bringing on, and that as the Taleban occupied more areas of the country and that people realized that now they were in mortal danger, that this was not something that was happening far away, they would finally turn against the Taleban. This would be a time for the Government to take action.
Currently, the Pakistani Government has declared that the pact in Swat is dead, and fierce military action is underway against the Taleban. There is no common thoughts on whether the Government did indeed plan it this way, or whether the action was taken because the pressure on the Pakistani Government and the army was proving impossible to face; indeed, the fact that the Pakistani military has always been a proponent of the strategic depth option in Afghanistan makes it hard to say either way. It needs to be seen whether the action will go all the way, or will end when Zardari comes back to Pakistan.




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