The Captain’s Journal has kept close watch over the Talibanization of the FATA. Amir Mir gives us reason to believe that Taliban control over the FATA and NWFP is almost complete.
Fifteen months after the launching of a military operation in the lush-green picturesque valley of Swat by the Pakistan army to dismantle the militant network of Maulana Fazalullah, a major part of the mountainous region seems to have fallen to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and Swat apparently lives under the Sharia of Fazalullah.
Not too long ago, the idyll Swat valley, with its rolling hills, gushing streams and scenic vistas, was described as Pakistan’s Switzerland. However, ever since the beginning of the military operation in 2007 the law and order situation in Swat has gone from bad to worse, converting this paradise on earth into a valley of death and destruction. Around 10,000 militants of the Tehrik-e-Taliban have been pitted against 15,000 Pakistan army troops since October 22, 2007 when the operation was officially launched. Leading the charge against the Pakistan army is Maulana Fazalullah, who is also known as Mullah Radio for the illegal FM radio channel he operates. Through his FM broadcast that is still operational despite being banned by the NWFP government, Fazalullah keeps inspiring his followers to implement Islamic Shariat, fight the Pakistan army, and establish his authority in the area …
While following in the footsteps of the former Taliban regime of Afghanistan, the militants of Fazalullah are also pursuing a rigid agenda of religious beliefs which is based on a violent jehadi doctrine. Barbers in Swat and its adjoining districts under have been ordered not to shave beards and shops selling CDs and music cassettes ordered to close down. In some places, just a handful of the militants control a village since they rule by fear – beheading government sympathizers, blowing up bridges and asking women to wear all-encompassing burqas. Similarly, the army is manning several police stations in Swat because the police force there had been decimated by desertions and militant killings. The gravity of the law and order situation can be gauged from the fact that one of the busiest squares in Mingora has been renamed by the shopkeepers as ’Khooni Chowk’ because every morning, as they come to their shops, they would find four or five dead bodies hung over the poles or the trees.
Mir also points to the larger organization to which Fazlullah belongs – the Tehrik-i-Taliban, which he decided to join in 2007.
Soon after the Lal Masjid operation, Fazalullah decided to join hands with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan led by Commander Baitullah Mehsud, in a bid to provide an umbrella to all insurgent movements operating in several tribal agencies and settled areas of the NWFP. Since then, Fazalullah and his followers are toeing Baitullah’s line, whether they are issuing a decree, signing a peace deal with the government or scrapping the same. Therefore, it appears by all accounts that the small coterie of Fazalullah-led militants is working in the same mould as the fanatic clerics of the Lal Masjid did, to make the Swat district hostage to its rigid vision of militant Islam. And remember, the valley is hardly 160 kilometers from Islamabad.
Mir inexplicably calls Fazlulah’s followers a “small coterie” of militants. If this was true, the Pakistan Army would have been successful in its operations in the FATA and NWFP. In fact, there is reason to believe that the Tehrik-i-Taliban has as many as a division of fighters in Swat.
The governor of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province has been quoted as saying that there are 15,000 militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
The fighters, who would very nearly constitute a small army division, “have no dearth of rations, ammunition, equipment, even anti-tank mines,” Owais Ahmad Ghani told a team from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan led by Asma Jahangir, according to newspaper reports. A militant or a foot soldier earned between 6,000 ($75) to 8000 rupees a month while commanders took home 20,000 rupees to 30,000 rupees, the governor said.
The TTP is apparently so confident in its power and de facto authority in Swat that they have summoned Swat valley political leaders and dignitaries before Sharia courts.
A radical Pakistani Taliban cleric is demanding that a group of more than 50 Swat Valley dignitaries appear in his Islamic “court,” local media says.
Maulana Fazullah (sic), commander of the local Taliban militia in the northwestern Pakistan region, wants its provincial and federal lawmakers, dignitaries, elders and their families to present themselves in his sharia court within a week or be hunted down, the Press Trust of India, quoting local media, reported Sunday.
There are too many media reports to mention that indicate that the organization of al Qaeda is staggering under the heavy load of targeted UAV strikes against its leadership in the tribal areas of Pakistan. True or not, it should be remembered about the TTP that while they were spawned by the Taliban of Afghanistan and aid them in the struggle against U.S. forces there, they have evolved into a much more radical organization than the original Taliban bent on global engagement, what Nicholas Schmidle calls the Next-Gen Taliban.
The TTP shout to passersby in Khyber “We are Taliban! We are mujahedin! “We are al-Qaida!” There is no distinction. A Pakistan interior ministry official has even said that the TTP and al Qaeda are one and the same. As for their global vision, Baitullah Mehsud has said “We want to eradicate Britain and America, and to shatter the arrogance and tyranny of the infidels. We pray that Allah will enable us to destroy the White House, New York, and London.”
The celebration of the demise of al Qaeda should be a short one, with full knowledge that something just as bad, bigger and more powerful is replacing it in the FATA and NWFP region of Pakistan. Our attention should return to the global counterinsurgency in which we are engaged, with full commitment to the defeat of militant jihad wherever it becomes manifest.