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The Continuing Crisis in Pakistan

May 29, 2009

The violence and upheaval in Pakistan threaten to further destabilize the region and are of particular concern to the US and world community because the country is one of the world’s leading possessors of nuclear weapons. The fighting between the Pakistani government and the Taliban also complicate the establishment of any stable state in bordering Afghanistan. A interesting and thorough look at the situation is at the New York Review of Books. An introduction to the current crisis:

The present scare was set off in mid-February when the North-West Frontier provincial government signed a deal with a neo-Taliban movement in the scenic Swat valley, a major tourist resort area about a hundred miles from Islamabad, allowing the Taliban to impose strict sharia law in Swat’s courts. (The creation of a new Islamic appeals court was announced by the Pakistani government on May 2.) In return for the Pakistani army withdrawing, the Taliban agreed to disarm, then promptly refused to do so. The accord followed the defeat in Swat last year of 12,000 government troops at the hands of some three thousand Taliban after bloody fighting, the blowing up of over one hundred girls’ schools, heavy civilian casualties, and the mass exodus of one third of Swat’s 1.5 million people. The Taliban swiftly imposed their brutal interpretation of sharia, which allowed for executions, floggings, and destruction of people’s homes and girls’ schools, as well as preventing women from leaving their homes and wiping out the families that had earlier resisted them.

Despite dire warnings by experts and Pakistan’s increasingly vocal commentators in the press and elsewhere that the accord was a major capitulation to the militants and a terrible precedent that contradicted the rule of law as stipulated by the constitution, Zardari and the national parliament approved the deal on April 14 without even a debate. Within days the Taliban in Swat moved further, taking control of the local administration, police, and schools. On April 19 Sufi Mohammed, a radical leader who the government had released from prison in November 2008 and termed “a moderate” and whose son-in-law, Maulana Fazlullah, is now the leader of the Swat Taliban, said that democracy, the legal system of the country, and civil society should be disbanded since they were all “systems of infidels.” Having won Swat, the Taliban made clear their intentions to overthrow the national government.

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