On the political front there’s still a lot of back and forth: Musharraf and Bhutto are still going back and forth about when the uniform will come off. The opposition leader released by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Javed Hashmi, addressed the National Assembly in his role as acting President, PML-N, and leader of ARD (the coalition of minor parties opposed to Musharraf, mostly MMA and PML-N.) The opposition parties thumped as he arrived, but the PPP and PML members mostly ignored the speech.
In the Frontiers everything is still low-key, so far the army has taken 200+ casualties without much response. Their leaders state that they are in the frontiers just to maintain law and order, and that the tribals must deal with the rising Talibanisation. It might be that they are waiting on outcome of the Pak-Afghan grand Jirga, or until the tribals themselves start taking some initiative. The Taliban continue to destroy checkpoints near Miranshah, and 20 Kg of explosives were found being smuggled in an oil tanker today. A bus enroute to a Pakistani Air Force base was attacked today, and three PAF personnel were injured.
The standoff in the frontiers might be about to break as the tribal jirga in Bajaur ended with no deal, both the Taliban and the Tribals refusing to budge. The tribals must think they have a strong hand to play. There was an interesting quote in the story:
Bajaur Political Agent Shafeerullah told jirga members the government would not meet the Taliban demand for the release of people “involved in attacks on state interests and murder of security forces”. The local administration had formed a 140-member tribal jirga to hold talks with Taliban leader Maulana Faqir Muhammad. He did not take part in the talks and his aides represented him.
“We abide by the March 26 peace deal (with the government) and have not carried out attacks the local administration believes we are responsible for, and instead it should take action against breakaway group led by Dr Ismail,” the Taliban negotiating team, including Maulana Syed Muhammad, told the jirga.
Shafeerullah warned tribal elders of action if local tribes did not meet territorial responsibility by handing over suspects who attacked government buildings and forces in their areas.
“We will take action against elders if attacks on government buildings and forces continue,” the political agent said. “The Taliban are on one hand denying their involvement in attacks and on the other there has been an increase in attacks on state interests.
I’ve never heard of Dr. Ishmail before, so if anyone knows his real name and whether or not he’s Egyptian, drop a comment please.
In the cities there has been a massive crackdown on criminal gangs, and many legal and illegal weapons collected the past five days. Most nights you see one or two articles with lists of arrestees and the gangs they are in numbering anywhere from 10-30 per article. Some heavy weapons have been collected along with the Kalashnikovs and pistols, and this seems like a smart move. The Taliban is weak in urban areas, and it’s likely that they would use the gangs as facilitators for attacks, or just hire them. Taking the criminal gangs out of play lessens the effectiveness the Taliban or AQ elements could have. They also have police presence on most campus.
Meanwhile this is wearing on the populace, you see letters to the editor from women who fear to drive, women who fear to shop or go to the movies. In the background, the usual sad stories like this one appear; did these sisters commit suicide, or was it an honor killing because they refused forced marriage?