An editorial from major Pakistani English daily The Dawn demonstrates that the era of “peace deals” in Pakistan’s tribal belt and other parts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) may be drawing to a close.
Strong and decisive action is needed without delay for the situation is spiralling out of control. Baitullah Mehsud captured and then withdrew from Jandola at will, setting houses ablaze and killing pro-government tribal leaders by the dozen. After fresh clashes in Swat that left at least 10 dead on Tuesday, the peace deal struck in May with Fazlullah’s Taliban now exists largely in name. Eight drivers who were part of a food convoy were found dead in Kurram Agency on Monday, 17 paramilitary personnel were kidnapped on Sunday night in Khyber Agency, and there are reports too of the Taliban meting out summary justice and executing ‘criminals’ in Orakzai. Even the NWFP capital is no longer safe from the rampaging Taliban and it is feared that threats to shopkeepers in Peshawar and the abduction last week of members of the Christian community may be a sign of far worse things to come.
This week Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani chaired a high-level meeting to asses the security situation in NWFP and along the border. After the meeting the government issued a statement that “elimination of terrorism and extremism is the gravest challenge to our national security.”
The statement authorizes Chief of Army Staff General Kiyani to decide on the use of military operations to deal with the threat, including initiation of “swift operations based on actionable intelligence to eliminate terrorists and to stop hostile movement across the border for operations against Coalition Forces in Afghanistan.”
The high-powered meeting comes on the heels of the murder of 22 tribal peace negotiators by Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan and reporting that Taliban militants are surrounding Peshawar. Zhaid Husain offered details in the Wall Street Journal:
Taliban militants have extended their influence and campaign of violence to the outskirts of this provincial capital, a key staging post on the supply route to NATO troops in Afghanistan.
Taliban militants are holding 15 paramilitary soldiers kidnapped Sunday after a raid on a security check post in the Khyber tribal region, an area that includes part of the city of Peshawar. The Taliban raid occurred hours after security forces foiled a suicide attack in the same region. Ambushes of military supply convoys also have increased in frequency.