Pakistan: villagers resist Islamists

Shortly after the Pakistani Taliban won their demand for Islamic law in the Swat Valley in a peace-for-sharia deal, they moved into neighboring Buner district, and won the right to preach in mosques there—which, local reports indicate, means effective political control. Residents in Buner initially fought the incoming Taliban, forming a lashkar or tribal militia. Some 20 militants were killed in the battle, but the lashkar was soon outnumbered as hundreds more Taliban fighters swarmed into the area.

Buner tribal elders met with Taliban representatives at a jirga, or council, in a bid for peace. They guaranteed the militants the right to preach in mosques, as long as they did not threaten local residents or their property. The fighters agreed to leave by last Friday, April 17. Instead, their gunmen continue to patrol the streets, using local mosques as recruiting centers. In a particular affront to local sensibilities, they have established their headquarters in the shrine of a local Sufi saint, Syed Ali Tirmizi, commonly known as Pir Baba—where they bark worshipers away. (The Nation, Pakistan, April 22; All Things Considered, April 21; CSM, The National, UAE, April 15)

In the Swat Valley, hundreds of schools have been destroyed by the Taliban, women now have to wear the burka, and flogging has been used as a form of punishment for men and women alike. (BBC News, April 21)

Meanwhile, even as the Taliban expands its influence zone with government connivance in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), the Pakistani military is waging an air campaign against Islamist militants in the neighboring Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Jets and helicopters attacked suspected Taliban bases in Orakzai Agency on April 19, killing 15. The air assault near Ghiljo village followed a claim of responsibility by Taliban leader Hakeemullah Mehsud for the previous day’s suicide attack on a security checkpost and convoy in the nearby town of Hangu. (Daily Times, April 20)

See our last posts on Pakistan and the struggle within Islam.

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