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Taliban in Pakistan

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For more information, see: Taliban.

The Taliban, which first formed in Afghanistan from students in Pakistani madrassas and with support from Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, moved into Afghanistan, escaped into Pakistan, and now are fighting for control of parts of that country. Even after a cease-fire, they recently advanced within 60 kilometers of the Pakistani capital, and the Pakistani government declared the agreement invalid.

Pakistani rule has never been strong in areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border, including the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), historically have been run by tribal law, even going back to the days of British colonial rule in the 19th century.

The situation has been complicated by Pakistani, especially ISI, tolerance of other militant Islamist groups in these areas, who cooperated with both the refugee Taliban and al-Qaeda. Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakistan's main overt Islamic party, also is sympathetic to the Taliban. In the 2002 Pakistani election, a coalition of Islamic parties, (MMA is the Urdu abbreviation) took control of the NWFP provincial assembly, headed a coalition in Baluchistan, and took 60 seats, up from 2, in the National Assembly.

Radical Islamists, to whom the Taliban were allied, became an increasing problem for Pakistan. Sufi Mohammed, the leader of the pro-Taliban Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed [TNSM or the Movement for the Enforcement of Mohammed's Law], as well as TNSM/Taliban leaders Fariq Mohammed in Bajaur, Mullah Fazlullah in Swat Valley, and Omar Khalid in Mohmand.

South Waziristan

South Waziristan, in the FATA, is probably the strongest area in Pakistan for both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The local military leader was Baitullah Mehsud, who may directly command approximately 20,000 men. He provides sanctuary for fighters to operate in Afghanistan, having driven out Pakistani government troops in 2005.[1] Mehsud was killed by a U.S. missile strike in August 2009.

A madrassa student without additional formal education, he swore bayat to Mullah Omar, and developed his military skills under Pashtun commander Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani. He became prominent in late 2004, after Nek Muhammad Wazir was killed in a missile attack in June 2004.

"His name appeared for the first time in newspapers after the abduction of Chinese engineers about three years ago when Baitullah was an aide to Abdullah Mehsud. Abdullah fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan against the Northern Alliance and in 1996 lost a leg when he stepped over a land mine. He was taken captive by warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum who turned him over to American forces. Abdullah was sent to Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba and held prisoner for two years, insisting the whole time that he was just an innocent tribesman.

"He was released in 2004 for reasons that remain unclear, and he returned to Waziristan. Soon after his return, Abdullah and his aide orchestrated the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers working on a dam in his region, proclaiming that Beijing was guilty of killing Muslims.[2] Mehsud heads Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), the most radical Pakistani Taliban faction, which wants to overthrow Pakistan's government. In contrast, the factions of Maulvi Nazir Ahmed (often called Maulvi Ahmed), in the plains and lower hills of South Waziristan, and Hafiz Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan, focus more on sending fighters into Afghanistan.[3] Nazir's movement is primarily Arab, while Mehsud's forces include volunteers from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. [4]

Red Mosque Movement

Maulana Abdul Aziz, leader of the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) movement, wanted to establish an Islamic state in central Pakistan. In 2004, Aziz and his brother Ghazi Abdul Rasheed issued a fatwa ruling that Pakistani soldiers killed while fighting against the Taliban and al Qaeda did not deserve a Muslim burial. Before that time, the fighting had been restricted to the FATA and NWFP. The Taliban, however, were sympathetic to the Red Mosque movement and had been supporting them with raids since 2006.

The Taliban-Pakistan conflict changed in July 2007 in the national capital, Islamabad, when Pakistani soldiers besieged, and then assaulted, the Red Mosque. After the raid on the Red Mosque, Mullah Khalid took over a shrine in Mohmand and named it the Red Mosque.

In April 2009, the Pakistani government released Aziz.[5]

Zainuddin

Qari Zainuddin, a former ally of Mehsud and a member of his tribe presented himself as a more moderate alternative, saying "Whatever Baitullah Mehsud and his associates are doing in the name of Islam is not a jihad, and in fact it is rioting and terrorism".[6] He was shot to death by one of his own guards in June 2009. He was estimated to have approximately 3,000 armed followers, and had spoken against Mehsud's use of suicide bombings against civilians. While he was not considered a major challenger, the government had hoped he would stir resistance to Mehsud. [7]

Swat Valley

Some of the most intense conflict has been in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, once a tourist destination called the "Switzerland of Pakistan," in the north of the NWFP. The Pakistani government agreed to allow sharia law in that area, on which tribal leaders had insisted before they would ask the insurgents to stop fighting. The government said the new law would have checks and balances that did not exist under the Taliban in Afghanistan. "'There was a vacuum . . . in the legal system. The people demanded this and they deserve it,'said Amir Haider Khan Hoti, chief minister of the North-West Frontier Province." The agreement includes appeals process that was not present in Afghanistan. In February 2009, the signers agreed to a ten-day cease fire while this was being implemented. [8]

Local resistance

A traditional Pashtun lashkar has risen, in June 2009, against the Taliban in Upper Dir and the Malakand Agency of the Northwest Frontier Province.[9]

References

  1. "Profile: Baitullah Mehsud", BBC News, March 26, 2009
  2. Syed Manzar Abbas Zaidi (September 2008), "A Profile of Baitullah Mehsud", Long War Journal
  3. Declan Walsh (April 5, 2009), "Is Baitullah Mehsud now public enemy No 1 for the US?", Guardian (U.K.)
  4. Declan Walsh (May 12, 2009), Taliban steps up attacks in Pakistan's tribal belt
  5. Bill Roggio (April 15, 2009), "Pakistan releases Red Mosque leader who led insurrection in capital", Long War Journal
  6. "Taleban commander rival Qari Zainuddin killed in Pakistan", Times (U.K.), June 24, 2009
  7. Munir Ahmad (June 24, 2009), Associated Press
  8. Pamela Constable (February 17, 2009), "Islamic Law Instituted In Pakistan's Swat Valley", Washington Post
  9. "Lashkar kills 14 Taliban in Dir", Daily Times (Pakistan), June 09, 2009