April 22, 2009

This Cannot Be Good

The Taliban have seized a key area just miles from Pakistan's capital.

A Taliban commander said Islamic Sharia courts would soon be established in the district as they have already done in Swat. Mohammad Khalil said the main objective was to end the "sense of deprivation" among locals and provide speedy justice to the people.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the information minister for Northwest Frontier Province, warned that the militants' activities in Buner were in violation of the Swat peace accord. "After the agreement, there is no justification to take up arms," Mr. Hussain said in a statement Wednesday. He denied, however, that the Taliban have total control over the area.

Rehman Malik, the federal home minister, said the government has the option of using force if the Taliban did not withdraw from Buner. A senior military official said a military operation could not be ruled out to stop the Taliban advance.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Taliban advances pose "an existential threat" to Pakistan and urged Pakistanis world-wide to oppose a government policy yielding to them.

Pakistanis "need to speak out forcefully against a policy that is ceding more and more territory to the insurgents," Mrs. Clinton said in testimony before a House committee. She pointed to "the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by the continuing [Taliban] advances, now within hours of Islamabad."

Analysts said the fall of Buner to the Taliban came as a serious blow to the government's efforts to contain Islamic militancy, which poses a major threat to Pakistan's security. The people of the area had previously beaten back Taliban raids, but lack of support from the security forces broke their resistance.

The development came after Sufi Mohammed, a radical cleric who played a central role in signing the peace accord called his followers to continue their struggle for the enforcement of Islamic rule in the entire North West Frontier Province.

Addressing a large crowd in Mingora, the main town in Swat on Sunday, Mr. Mohammed declared that there was no room for democracy in Islam. "The Western democracy is infidels and should be rejected by Muslims," he said.

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