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The doomed vale

Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah’s writ runs large over the picturesque Swat valley,reported all major papers.

Written by Ruchika Talwar | January 31, 2009 1:37:08 am

Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah’s writ runs large over the picturesque Swat valley,reported all major papers. On January 26,Dawn reported: “troops were authorised to shoot at sight curfew violators in the wake of reports that Maulana Fazlullah had ‘summoned’ 50 influential people to ‘appear’ before a Taliban ‘court’ within a week.” Daily Times quoted the New York Times as saying: “Taliban — who control ‘virtually all of’ Swat — continue to use radio transmitters to terrorise residents and even reveal the names of people they kill or plan to kill”. On January 29,Dawn carried perhaps the first reactions of President Asif Ali Zardari on the state of lawlessness: ‘We will not allow them to set up their parallel judiciary system and threaten the local people to either appear before them or face death.” Mahmud Sipra,in his column in Daily Times on January 29,likened Swat to the Kashmir Valley. He observed: “Swat was our Kashmir,in tourist attraction terms that is. That comparison must end here though. I heard Omar Abdullah say that their Kashmir was ‘peaceful enough for Aamir Khan to come and film there’. I am not aware if Mr Khan took him up on his offer”.

Change of guard

The Punjab government’s takeover of the Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) headquarters at Muridke,has been lauded not only by Indian spectators but also by certain observers in Pakistan. Dawn,in its January 27 editorial stated: “If the provincial and federal governments don’t work together to ensure the group is shut down for good,in all likelihood it will re-emerge later in a new form,and perhaps with an even more virulent ideology. Second,a winning counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism strategy has to focus on the welfare of local populations.” The editorial in The News underscored the authenticity of the hints provided by India to Pakistan on the possible involvement of such outfits in the Mumbai carnage. Issuing a caveat towards the end,it observed: “The decisive action would seem to imply Pakistan does have some evidence of the LeT’s involvement in the Mumbai attacks. Over the past eight years,JuD has been able to paint itself in the minds of people as a group engaged in ‘good’ work…..But all this cannot disguise the fact that the group also promotes extremist ideas. ..Until this is revealed,groups such as the JuD will continue to paint themselves as martyrs,blaming Indian and Western pressure for the action against them.”

Tit-for-tat

On January 27,Daily Times carried a news item reflective of the harm the recent chill in Indo-Pak relations has had on Pakistan’s cinema business. “Cinema operators fear the spike in cross-border tensions could doom their businesses”. The News,on January 29 said: “two wrongs do not make a right….Pakistan must show itself to possess greater acumen and maturity….Cinema owners in Pakistan have expressed concern over the possibility of a ban on Bollywood films…It is also a fact that these films will help promote the competition that the local film industry needs to move out of its present state of stagnation…By refusing to do so Pakistan would play a positive part in moving towards a more normal relationship with India,demonstrating that,unlike New Delhi,it has no desire to add to the existing tensions but is instead determined to end them.”

Mission Possible?

The News in the January 29 editorial sang paeans to US President Barack Obama for choosing Al Arabiya for his first interview. “He told the Muslim world Americans were ‘not your enemy’…The fact that Obama chose an Arab news channel to give his first interview as president is in itself significant. Clearly he sees building a warmer relationship with the Muslim world as a key priority. Already,there are signals,as Obama noted in his interview,that Al-Qaeda leaders are wary of Washington’s new chief. Like many of us,they perhaps wonder what his plans are and where he intends to take the world.”

Dawn in its January 30 editorial was,however,cynical about Obama’s promises to the Muslim world. “During the Bush presidency,has America has been little better than a colonial power…It is the Muslim countries that have borne the brunt of American firepower,which has mostly killed Muslim civilians.”

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