The 21st Century Phenomenon


Pakistan rejected, on Friday 05/15/2009, an offer of peace talks to end fighting with Taliban militants in the northwestern Swat Valley as the conflict threatened a humanitarian crisis for more than 800,000 people forced to flee their homes.

Taliban guerrillas have repeatedly reneged on earlier peace accords in Swat District and elsewhere, Afrasiab Khattak, a senior minister in North West Frontier Province, said by phone from Peshawar today. “They never had the intention of laying down arms,” he said (see – Swat Truce II).

Pakistani security forces are battling an estimated 4,000 insurgents who reneged on a February accord and advanced closer to the capital, Islamabad, even after the government agreed to impose Islamic law in the region. More than 800 militants have been killed since the offensive began, on 04/26/2009, the PAKISTANI ARMY said.

USA officials have criticized Pakistan for signing peace agreements with the Tehrik-e-Taleban and urged the government to crack down on Islamic extremists. President Barack Obama has said a five-year aid package to Pakistan worth $1.5 billion a year would be conditional on the government tackling terrorism (see – iSi report).

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani  is trying to build cross-party support for the offensive and has called a meeting next week to develop a policy for combating Taliban insurgents. Nawaz Sharif, the country’s main opposition leader, plans to attend the May 18 meeting, a spokesman for his party said (see – As If Democracy).

The pro-Taliban Tehrik-e-Nifaaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi group (see – Sufi Mohammad), which negotiated the February accord, said today it was ready for talks with the government to end the fighting just a week after announcing it will not continue negotiation with the government.   

Khattak dismissed the offer, saying the group has “no authority” over Maulana Fazlullah, who commands local Taliban forces in Swat.

Many of the guerrillas fighting the government are ethnic Uzbeks from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan -IMU, a group linked to Al Qaeda, said security analyst Mahmood Shah, a retired army brigadier.

The fighting in Swat and neighboring districts has forced about 835,000 people from their homes, according to the United Nations, and Gilani said yesterday authorities must ensure displaced villagers are well cared for. The exodus of refugees is the biggest since Pakistan gained independence in 1947, Gilani said.

The displaced people are “our brothers, sisters and children and we should win their minds and hearts,” the prime minister told lawmakers. “Militarily we will win the war, but it will be unfortunate if we lose it publicly.”

Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani, the army chief of staff, will brief lawmakers on the operation today.

Instead of securing towns and villages one by one and patrolling the mountains to keep militants on the run, the army “hunkered down” in camps and “used excessive firepower that killed hundreds of civilians,” Rashid wrote in a March report for CTC Sentinel, published by the Combating Terrorism Center of the U.S. military academy at West Point.

Authorities agreed to appoint Islamic judges to Swat and neighboring districts under the February peace accord (see – Swat-Law). The Taliban reneged on the agreement and advanced last month to within 100 kilometers of Islamabad.

* (It is almost obvious that the Arabic TV network Al-Jazeera did not broadcast any program about outrages conditions of the refuges and the atrocities committed by the Taliban nor did the general secretaries of the UN appointed any enquire committee to look after violation of human rights committed by the Taliban or the Pakistani Army).


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