Tanned, Rested and Talibani

From Holden:

The Taliban assumes control of a Pakistani province.

When the Pakistan army’s front line in its war on terrorism moved elsewhere, and the Taliban took control of his hometown, Baidar decided it was time to leave.

“The government is helpless. The Taliban is in full control there, not religious students, but militant Taliban,” said the 30-year-old Wazir tribesman.


The Pakistan army, in the words of President Pervez Musharraf, chased al Qaeda out of South Waziristan “valley by valley” in an offensive that lasted from late 2003 to early 2005.

Thereafter the focus switched to North Waziristan, where more than 300 militants have been killed since mid-2005.

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From Holden:

In an interview with Avt Khyber TV, an independent Pashto-language channel, aired on May 19, Musharraf said the operations against al Qaeda had been very successful, but in the next breath he said: “Extremism and Talibanization are spreading … now the focus has shifted from terrorism to extremism.”

And while the fighting has intensified in North Waziristan, its southern neighbor has become quiet — too quiet.

“If you say there is peace, I would say yes there is no trouble. But if you ask whether there is any government I would say no,” said a member of the Mehsuds, the other dominant tribe in South Waziristan, who, like Baidar, has moved to North West Frontier Province (NWFP) to escape the Taliban’s power grab.

“They are basically strengthening their position. They are virtually ruling the roost.”


As the military campaign moved north, political assassinations became commonplace in the south.

Unknown gunmen ambushed administrators, pro-government tribal elders and journalists, forcing many to flee with their families to the settled areas of NWFP.

“Almost all malakan (pro-government tribal elders) have left Waziristan,” said Baidar.

A power vacuum opened the door for militant Muslim clerics, dubbed Pakistani Taliban by the media.

Musharraf says they have no single leader, although they may have ties with the Afghan Taliban chief, Mullah Mohammad Omar.

But Haji Mohammad Omar, a burly, heavily bearded 45-year-old is one of the new forces in South Waziristan.

Residents say his men roam around Wana with rocket launchers mounted on the back of their pick-up trucks.

“We have brought peace in Waziristan. We have eliminated excesses, oppression, robberies and drugs from Waziristan,” he told Reuters by telephone from Wana.

The militants have opened offices and set up checkposts in Wana’s main market, collecting fees from vehicles entering.

They have even set up a court to conduct summary trials.

Most times the mullahs increase the fine for murders, and executions are rare, although a man convicted of killing his son was shot dead in front of a crowd of 150 tribesmen in late March.

A veteran of the mujahideen guerrilla war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, Omar later fought with the Taliban and met al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

Now, after being granted an amnesty and being paid to stop making trouble in 2004, Omar openly admits recruiting fighters to send them across the border to fight U.S. and Afghan forces.

He accuses Musharraf of “allying with infidels.”