Pakistan update

Torkham gate in the Khyber pass remained closed the third day as tribals fight in the area with “militants” – obviously Taliban from their strategy outlined here the other night.

This is backing up returning refugee caravans of Afghans being evacuated back to Afghanistan from a refugee camp near Peshawar. The shops in the refugee camp have all been bulldozed and burnt, but the homes remain as the UN wants the exodus of refugees to go slow.

Meanwhile Laskar-Islami (LI) is sending threats out to factory owners to close evening and nightshifts. This is the inbred luddite streak of the Taliban movement which is one of the reasons they get the big (L)ose wherever they go. People in NWFP and FATA will be losing their jobs if it continues, which isn’t going to win the Taliban fans.

People in the area are also going to start getting very hungry very shortly as all supplies to the region are now backed up down the pass, including fuel, seed for planting, and food stuffs for the region. I predict that the populace will turn on them with a vengeance in short order.

The forces trying to interdict the pass appear to be LI, and the umbrella of Kashmiri veteran groups collected under the HuJI-P umbrella, but they are fighting against locals who know the area much better, so it will be interesting to see how this goes as the “foreign dragon/local snake” factor comes into play here. The concern I have is that this could be largely distraction while something of import is being done elsewhere.

Meanwhile the Tehreek e Taliban are talking about making peace with the new government, and they do seem responsive, but with them attacking the Khyber Pass the PPP government has to be seriously worried. The Government can’t last if someone else holds the Khyber for a long time, it’s one of the lifelines of Pakistan. If the government jumps in to help the tribals, which they should, the Taliban will accuse them of being guided by the US and continue to wage war in Pakistan. If the government doesn’t respond, then they will have let down the locals and the tribals, as well as the industrial base of the NWFP, and the Taliban will continue to war on them anyway. The Taliban doesn’t seek peace, they just want a hudna while they triangulate new angles with the new government in place.

In other news, a fourth Urdu journalist has been killed in Hub.