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Pakistani Army Flattening Villages, 500,000 Could Become Displaced

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4-5 May 09 | McClatchy, AWC News, PTV, FT, and AJE

The Pakistani army’s assault against Islamic militants in Buner, in northwest Pakistan, is flattening villages, killing civilians and sending thousands of farmers and villagers fleeing from their homes, residents escaping the fighting said Monday.

“We didn’t see any Taliban; they are up in the mountains, yet the army flattens our villages,” Zaroon Mohammad, 45, told McClatchy as he walked with about a dozen scrawny cattle and the male members of his family in the relative safety of Chinglai village in southern Buner. “Our house has been badly damaged. These cows are now our total possessions.”

Mohammad’s and other residents’ accounts of the fighting contradict those from the Pakistani military and suggest that the government of President Asif Ali Zardari is rapidly losing the support of those it had set out to protect.

The heavy-handed tactics are ringing alarm bells in Washington, where the Obama administration is struggling to devise a strategy to halt the militants’ advances. Officials Monday talked about the need to train the Pakistani military, which has long been fixated on fighting armored battles with India, in counterinsurgency warfare, but it may be too late for that.

Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Monday that the Pakistani army in recent years has undertaken “bursts of fighting and engagement” fighting insurgents, but that its operations were “not sustained” by follow-up measures.

The army is now using force, but it also must hold and rebuild the area it conquers, he said. “There’s a military piece” to the operation, he said, “but there also needs to be a hold and build aspect of it.”

Another U.S. official, who closely tracks Pakistan developments, said the Pakistan army is “just destroying stuff. They have zero ability to deliver (aid) services.”

“They hold villages completely accountable for the actions of a few, and that kind of operation produces a lot of (internally displaced persons) and a lot of angst,” said a senior defense official. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. >>> (h/t: AntiWar.com)

Major Taliban faction pulls out of Swat Valley Peace

Muslim Khan, the spokesman for the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP)’s Swat chapter announced today that due to the ongoing military offensives, the group will formally withdraw from the Swat Valley peace deal and start combating the government forces directly.

Though the TTP was a secondary party to the much vaunted peace deal between the Pakistani government and the Tehreek-e Nifaz-e Shariat-e Muhammadi (TNSM), which the government insists it is respecting, TTP positions have been attacked in growing numbers in recent days. >>>

U.S. wants Saudis to pacify Taliban in Pakistan

Pentagon Chief Robert Gates is reaching out to Saudi officials who maintain close ties with al-Qaeada and Taliban elements in the troubled South Asia.

Gates addressing a press conference in Riyadh said the United States was prodding Saudi Arabia to play a pacifying role in the violence-wracked South Asian country.

“The Saudis, in particular, have considerable influence in Pakistan. And so I think that whatever they can do to bring Pakistanis together in a broader sense to deal with the challenge to the government in Islamabad obviously would be welcome,” Gates said.

Washington believes that Saudi Arabia’s close ties to elements within Taliban and other radical groups could help tackle the ongoing Taliban insurgency across the violence-wracked country.

The developments come after a senior US official said that Washington was prepared to discuss the establishment of a political party for the Taliban insurgents in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Saudis have already hosted some rounds of talks between the Taliban insurgents and the Kabul government in Mecca over some past months.

This is while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a congressional hearing explained how the US along with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) created the Taliban in 1980’s to counter then Soviets’ influence in the volatile region.

“And great, let them come from Saudi Arabia and other countries, importing their Wahabi brand of Islam so that we can go beat the Soviet Union,” Clinton said.

Moderate Sunni and Shia Muslims believe that the Taliban who belong to Wahabi order has nothing to do with Islam and was created by the global powers to fuel extremism and tarnish the image of real Islam.

Many Pakistanis believe that the most of the al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who have settled in the troubled northwestern came from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.

The US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 has prompted militants to cross the border into Pakistan, turning the restive tribal belt between the two neighbors into a scene of deadly and continuing violence.

Despite the presence of more than 70,000 US-led foreign troops in Afghanistan, insurgency has escalated in the war-torn country and spilled over to neighboring Pakistan as well.

Washington is also looking to Pakistan’s opposition leader Nawaz Sharif – who spent his exile yearsin Saudi Arabia– for some sort of arrangement with the Islamabad government.

Sharif was ousted as prime minister in 1999 during a coup by General Pervez Musharraf, who ruled until August 2008.

Citing unnamed administration officials, The New York Times reported on Saturday that Sharif’s close ties with some radical groups could help tackle the ongoing Taliban insurgency across the violence-wracked country.

Pakistan urges residents to flee Swat conflict

Pakistani authorities urged people in the Swat Valley’s main town to leave their homes for safer places ahead of a possible offensive by security forces against Taliban militants.

The order suggested that the authorities were preparing to reduce civilian casualties in the event of a military attack. >>>

Pakistan fears exodus from Swat

Up to half a million Pakistanis living in the Swat valley could be forced flee amid fierce fighting between Taliban fighters and the military, the Pakistan goverment has said.

Thousands of people fled the main town of Mingora in the valley, part of the North West Frontier Province, on Tuesday after being told to leave by government officials.

Men, women and children piled onto pick-up trucks in their haste to flee the town.

“People are leaving with literally clothes on their backs and what few possessions they can carry and heading to … a makeshift camp,” Sohail Rahman, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Islamabad.

“The social development minister … has appealed to aid agencies to try and help those people who were leaving the Swat area and Buner with accommodation.”

Fears of offensive

A camp had been set up for the displaced in the nearby town of Dargai, officials said.

“In view of the situation in Swat, at least 500,000 people can migrate from that area. Camps are being established for them,” Mian Iftikhar Hussain, North West Frontier Province’s information minister, said.

The military had earlier ordered neighbourhoods on the edge of Mingora to evacuate and announced the end of a curfew for the displaced to flee, a move that sparked fears of an imminent new offensive. >>>



Written by Editors

5 May 2009 at 12:31 pm

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  1. […] Pakistani Army Flattening Villages, 500,000 Could Become Displaced (5 May 09) […]

  2. […] Pakistani Army Flattening Villages, 500,000 Could Become Displaced (5 May 09) […]

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