Pakistan's Zardari: The Taliban "Trying To Take Over"
by Charles Lemos, Sun Feb 15, 2009 at 01:52:21 PM EST
Stunning in his honesty, but Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zadari tells 60 Minutes' correspondent Steve Kroft that various Taliban-affiliated militant groups are present in "huge amounts of land" in Pakistan and his Government is in a battle to survive against the growing threat of the Taliban. Without question, large swaths of the Northwest Tribal Areas are under direct or indirect Taliban control and have been for some time now but President Zardari's clarion call is that the Taliban has made significant inroads into Baluchistan, the Sind, the Malakand and other areas of Pakistan proper.
More from CBS News:
Pakistan's new president, Asif Ali Zardari, says his nuclear-armed government is in a battle to survive against the growing threat of the Taliban, which his country failed to take strong action against earlier.
Now the Muslim militant group has extended its presence from the tribal borderlands inland to larger cities, Zardari tells 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft in an interview to be broadcast this Sunday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
"[The Taliban] do have a presence in huge amounts of land in our side. Yes, that is the fact," says Zardari. Once confined to the country's border area with Afghanistan, where they carried out strikes against U.S. troops over the border, the Taliban have extended their influence in Pakistan inland to cities like Peshawar and the Swat Valley.
The Swat Valley is an area few journalists are able to operate in and it appears that despite the presence of thousands of extra Pakistani troops the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and its local affliliate, Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, remain firmly in control. Policemen have been beheaded in the streets, men have been lashed and dozens schools have been burnt down under the Taliban justice and their version of Sharia law.
The Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi is an Islamist group founded by Sufi Muhammad in 1992 and banned by President Musharraf in 2002 after the group sent fighters into Afghanistan to repel the American-led NATO assault. According to reports, the Taliban and Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi now control the Swat Valley and have banned 40,000 girls from attending schools. More than 170 schools have been burned since the battle for Swat begun in November 2006.
The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan is an umbrella group for Taliban activities in Pakistan. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan is a Wahabi Sunni sectarian group with ties to Saudi Wahabism.
The UK Guardian is reporting that "Pakistan is to impose Islamic law in a vast region of the north-west called Malakand in an attempt to placate extremists."
Critics warned that the new sharia regulations represented a capitulation to the extremists' demands, and that it would be difficult to stop hardliners elsewhere in the country from demanding that their areas also come under Islamic law."This is definitely a surrender," said Khadim Hussain of the Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy, a thinktank in Islamabad. "If you keep treating a community as something different from the rest of the country, it will isolate them." Javed Iqbal, a retired judge, speaking on Pakistani television, said: "It means that there is not one law in the country. It will disintegrate this way. If you concede to this, you will go on conceding." The deal, set to be announced tomorrow, follows talks between the government and a local Islamic leader, Sufi Muhammad, who once led hundreds of men to fight alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan against the US-led coalition. He was freed by the Pakistani authorities after the restoration of democracy last year, in a move heavily criticised by Washington.
President Zardari is not posturing. Wish that he were, his position could be seen as a ploy for more aid but the facts speak for themselves. Pakistan is in trouble. The question is what to do about it?
More reports on Pakistan's troubles: