August 1, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 2002

Pakistani Daily Warns: North West Frontier Province Falling into Taliban Hands

August 1, 2008
Pakistan | Special Dispatch No. 2002

The secular Pakistani government, which came into power this year, recently made a peace deal with the Taliban, permitting it to establish shari'a rule in the Swat-Malakand region in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Since then, the Taliban has made continuous efforts to expand the areas under its control, and in recent weeks there has been growing concern that the NWFP capital Peshawar, is in danger of falling into Taliban hands.

The growing threat to Peshawar and to the entire NWFP was the topic of a recent editorial in the locally influential Urdu-language newspaper Roznama Mashriq. The following are excerpts from the editorial:[1]

Peshawar in Danger Due to Government Deal with Taliban

"The [recent] clashes between the security forces and the Taliban in Swat revealed the real [nature] of the so-called peace deal between the NWFP government [and the Taliban]. The commitments made by the NWFP government to the Taliban were difficult, if not impossible, to implement... The failure [of the deal] was more than obvious as the government tried to take credit for it while [failing to involve the security forces in its planning] and despite being totally unable to implement it. Any optimism regarding this peace deal is [an act of] self-deception in light of the [Taliban's actions] of burning down [girls'] schools and firing on police vehicles, [and in light of the] recent clashes in which security personnel and a Taliban commander were killed...

"It is as a result of [this deal] that peace in Peshawar is now in danger. Every other day there are indications that suicide bombers and vehicles loaded with explosives have infiltrated the city. Interior Security Advisor [Rahman Malik] has told the National Assembly that the situation in the NWFP is volatile, and that a limited [military] operation will be needed. Maulana Fazlur Rahman, head of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F), has told the Assembly that the NWFP government no longer has any authority [in the province].

"[But despite this,] the [NWFP] government is not taking a serious view of the situation in the province. The Taliban are running various towns in the province, and we are sleeping. By the time we wake up, the province may be [completely] in the hands [of the Taliban]. The lack of concern on the part of the NWFP government, despite the statements [heard] in the National Assembly... [and despite the situation in Peshawar and Swat], raises doubts regarding the [life expectancy] of this government..."

"No One in Chief Minister [Hoti's] Government and In His Ruling Awami National Party (ANP) Knows How to Deal With the Situation in the NWFP?

"In the event of a [military] operation, there will not be peace [even] in Peshawar, [which has become a refuge for] people who fled from the clashes in Swat and Malakand, as well as in Parachinar and Miranshah [in the tribal districts]. The duration and outcome of this operation – no matter what its scale – will depend on the circumstances [of the conflict]. This is evident from the [previous military] operation in Swat, whose destructive consequences are still with us, and whose long-term effects are anyone's guess.

"No one in Chief Minister [Ameer Haider Khan Hoti's] government and in his ruling Awami National Party (ANP) knows how to deal with the situation in the NWFP – except [federally nominated] Governor Owais Ghani. [One hopes that] the NWFP governor discussed this issue in his [recent] meeting with President Pervez Musharraf.

"Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti [certainly] failed to discuss the NWFP's rights – and especially the issue of establishing peace – with President [Pervez Musharraf] and with Prime Minister [Yousuf Raza Gilani]... The ruling ANP was angry about Interior Security Advisor [Rahman Malik's] statement about the peace deal, which it characterized as [a federal] interference in the affairs of the province... With the peace of the province and the lives of its people at stake, the NWFP government's childish [complaints]... are tantamount to inviting disaster. The ANP has approved the deal [with the Taliban] in Swat while ignoring the Taliban's preparations for an aggressive [move on] Peshawar. It is not clear what sort of strategy led to this [the deal]...

"It is the responsibility of NWFP Governor Owais Ghani and Interior Security Advisor Rahman Malik to deal with the situation... and to respond to the public's concerns by taking concrete measures before [the situation in] the NWFP gets out of hand."

[1] Roznama Mashriq (Pakistan), June 26, 2008.

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