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Taliban gaining ground

Taliban gaining ground

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 25, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/171940/Taliban-gaining-ground.html

The world should prepare for the worst

It has hardly been a week since the Asif Ali Zardari Government capitulated to the Taliban and signed the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation 2009 that effectively handed over the Swat Valley to the jihadis. The argument put forward by Islamabad in support of this seemingly absurd move was that by allowing the imposition of sharia'h in Swat the Taliban would have no reason to continue their jihad, and therefore, would be forced to disarm. Yet, within days of taking control of Swat, the Taliban have now swept into neighbouring Buner district where they have started imposing their diktat. Taliban check points have come up in various parts of the district including the main town of Daggar, which is only at a distance of 100 kilometre from Islamabad. The jihadis have also ordered local residents not to play music and close down barber shops. In response, and due to increasing US pressure, Islamabad sent six platoons of its Frontier Constabulary to drive out the Taliban from Buner only to be beaten back in skirmishes that led to the death of one policeman and wounded another. Reports coming in also suggest that the Taliban have moved into another adjacent district called Shangla where eyewitnesses say that on Thursday 30 jihadi fighters took over and started patrolling a local market. Although Islamabad has been making frantic efforts to force the Taliban to leave these two districts, the jihadis were still seen patrolling the streets of Daggar on Friday morning.

It is clear that the state of Pakistan is fast crumbling in the face of the Taliban's onslaught. It is also equally clear that Islamabad is absolutely incapable of doing anything about it. Thus, it would be prudent for the international community to prepare for the worst: A complete takeover of Pakistan by the Taliban. For, the way things are shaping up it would be foolish to just sit and hope that somehow what the entire world dreads will be averted. Highlighting the gravity of the situation US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already said that the happenings in Pakistan pose a "mortal threat" to the international community. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates hasn't minced words either and has suggested that unless Islamabad took proactive measures to stop the Taliban's advance, US-Pakistan ties could be seriously affected. This is all very well. But the seriousness in words needs to be translated into action. It is time that the Obama Administration's 'AfPak' policy is given some teeth and options are explored to broaden the International Security Assistance Force's on-ground military operations in Afghanistan to include Taliban strongholds in Pakistan. The incentives for this are strong given that Pakistan's restive tribal belt along the Afghan border has emerged as a safe haven for Taliban fighters fleeing the Isaf operations. This will also impede the Taliban's apparent march on Islamabad. The Pakistan Government might be reluctant to go along, but the problem is no longer something that the international community can simply ignore.

As far as New Delhi is concerned, it must remain on its toes. With the Taliban openly declaring their intention to impose their writ in all of Pakistan, there is a very real possibility that sooner or later our security forces would have to confront them. There is also the nightmarish possibility of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal falling into the Taliban's hands. Thus, given the seriousness of the situation in Pakistan complacency is the last thing that anyone would want, and it is imperative that New Delhi prepares for any eventuality.

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