Snow is falling in the higher passes as people prepare for winter, and the country faces the economic downturn being seen worldwide. Many pin it on the downturn in the US, but the housing bubble burst in the US is really not the whole of it, it’s just another symptom. The downturn we see now is really the spreading wake of two years of sustained high energy prices. Pakistan got an IMF loan to weather the economic drought, and the government is having the usual sniping in their chambers as everyone tries to deflect blame and flames. There have been crackdowns and arrests of Foreign exchange operators, as the government tries to prevent money from fleeing the country (note to intel types: think on who would be refugee under the current scenario, and why money would be leaving…)
The war in Bajaur and Swat continues at low key, and there is supposed to be an operation underway to tackle Mohmand agency. On the border of Mohmand in Charsadda, a suicide bomber in a van attacked a school being used by Police and paramilitaries, killing four at the gate and himself. Authorities blocked the Peshawar-Bajaur road while they investigated. There are now “Peace activists” in a camp in Peshawar led by a black turban as well. That would bear some watching, on the other hand it could just be a poseur trying to sell shuttlecock burqas…
The authorities arrested an Afghanistan Taliban ex-minister trying to leave for Dubai under false papers, the detainee was civil aviation deputy minister during the period the Taliban ruled in Afghanistan.
President Zardari is attending the UN interfaith conference and met with Sect’y Condoleeza Rice on the sidelines. The goverment has stabilized a bit in the wake of the IMF loan and after making the decision to proceed with the operations in Bajaur. While US missile strikes have become routine the outcry has lessened as suicide bombings continue and the urban core areas feel threatened.
The TTP taliban appear a bit fractured even though they are fighting to hang on in Swat and Bajaur, it appears that some are trying local warlord ploys. Any of the splinter groups will still take orders from Al Qaeda however the influence of Baitullah Mehsud has lessened in some areas, notably Khyber Agency.
What’s ahead? Expect more frontier unrest as food and fuel goes scarce in some areas due to fighting, the usual Taliban road blockages and hijackings, as well as the summer harvests running low during January-February. Border incursions to the north in Afghanistan will problably lessen and Taliban transiting north will swing wide through Iran to get around the frozen passes if they go at all with the war in the frontiers. I am seeing indications which are not yet clear of a shift in strategy, watch for movement at all Pakistan borders — this might be the beginning of an exodus.
This report was compiled from various news stories in The International News and the Daily Times
Update: TTP Claims the Suicide Bombing