Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bush Doctrine Shows Up in Pakistan

Here is a hopeful piece of news from Pakistan, where things haven’t been going so well for the good guys lately.

It seems that Al Qaeda, (though the McLatchy article refuses to call them by that name), and their Taliban pals, have been making new enemies among the Pakistani tribes who’ve been providing them safe haven in their region since 2001. The situation sounds very similar to the situation in Iraq when Al Qaeda brutalityconvinced local Sunni leaders in Anbar that AQI had to be driven out.

In northwest Pakistan, the elders of tribal elders got together and decided to raise their own armed defense force. Of note: “Among the decisions was that anyone sheltering Taliban in the area would be severely punished.”

You’d almost think they’d been studying up on the “Bush doctrine” circa 2001.

Pakistani tribes take on militants

With little faith in government, they defend themselves


WARI, Pakistan -- A popular resistance movement is emerging in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province to challenge Islamic extremists, who exercise control over whole districts and maintain a stranglehold over the local population.

The movement in both the province and the lawless tribal territory bordering Afghanistan relies on fierce tribal customs and widespread ownership of guns in the northwest of the country to raise traditional private armies, known as a lashkar, each with the strength of hundreds or several thousand volunteers.

The movement arose after local tribal leaders decided that the government can't or won't come to their aid as a radical, outside form of Islam seeks to impose itself on them down the barrel of an assault rifle.

There are parallels with the so-called Sunni Awakening in Iraq, in which tribesmen took on Al Qaeda militants in Anbar province and elsewhere. While the movement is in only a few pockets so far in northwest Pakistan, its existence could mark a turning point in Pakistan's battle with violent extremism.

'The people versus the Taliban'

"There's going to be a civil war. These lashkars are spreading," said Asfandyar Wali Khan, leader of the Awami National Party, which controls the provincial government in NWFP. "It will be the people versus the Taliban."

Dir -- a long, narrow valley in the province -- is sandwiched between Taliban strongholds in Bajaur and Afghanistan to the west and more militants in the valley of Swat to its east.

This month, about 200 elders from the Payandakhel tribe met in Wari, a small town in the north of the region. In the dusty front yard of a high school, they held a traditional tribal meeting, or jirga, and made rousing speeches that resulted in a resolution to assemble their own lashkar. Among the decisions was that anyone sheltering Taliban in the area would be severely punished.

"The government forces cannot even save themselves -- what good will they be to us? They are just silent spectators," Malik Zarene, a tribal elder, told the crowd. "We will rise for our own defense."

Many of the men at the jirga arrived with machine guns, some dating to the 1980s Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The meeting was called in response to a scare a few days earlier, when members of the Taliban tried to seize a local school and take 300 children hostage. Without waiting for the authorities to act, tribesmen successfully tackled the assailants.

In Dir, the local tribes have demanded that the federal army not deploy, to which it has agreed.

"Once the army comes in, these Taliban fire at the army, and the whole thing escalates," said a senior security official in Dir who spoke on condition of anonymity because he isn't authorized to speak to the media. "It is best this is tackled in the traditional way."


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