To my shock and amazement, there are depths of savagery and horror to which the Taliban will sink that is beyond what the average Muslim will tolerate. Read this story from The Times Online and rejoice. I believe this may be one of the more significant events in terms of the war with the Taliban in terms of how it may come out.
Eeyore for Vlad
When the militants arrived in their mountainous corner of northwestern Pakistan in February the locals cautiously welcomed them, thinking they were waging jihad against foreign troops in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Some even joined them, attracted by the five or six pounds a day they paid. Over the next three months, however, Upper Dir’s residents were increasingly angered by the Taleban’s criminal activities and disrespect for local customs, according to residents and Pakistani officials.
In early June elders asked them to leave the five villages they had occupied. The Taleban responded on June 5 with a suicide attack on a local mosque that killed 39 people. The next day they told the elders to give them the women who had been widowed in the attack.
Instead, the elders summoned men from 30 surrounding villages, told them to fetch their weapons (many men in the region own a gun), and launched a “lashkar” — or tribal militia — of more than 1,000 people to drive out the Taleban.
They shot dead the local Taleban leader — who went by the name of Champo — burnt several more to death in the houses that they had occupied, and surrounded the remaining 150 in a mountainside village, where they were still under siege yesterday.
“Don’t call them Taleban because they are gangsters, looters and plunderers,” Omar Rehman, 35, a farmer and member of the lashkar, told The Times.
“The Taleban should be those who are getting religious education peacefully.” Upper Dir’s lashkar is the most dramatic illustration of the public backlash against the Taleban that has accompanied the army’s attack on the militants in the northwestern region of Swat since late April.
It is now being held up as a model for other civilians trying to resist the Taleban across North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the neighbouring Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) — al-Qaeda’s main sanctuary.
Even General David Petraeus, the head of US Central Command, has noted its significance.
“For the first time you see the people rising up against them even in the tribal areas with these tribal lashkar standing up against the Taleban,” he said in a recent speech.
Major-General Athar Abbas, Pakistan’s army spokesman, said that lashkars were key to the success of the army’s continuing operations in the northwest. “In the past we didn’t give them enough support but now we recognise their importance,” he said.
When the Taleban advanced into the northwestern region of Buner in April a lashkar raised there had to disband because the Government failed to support it. But the army is now embedding plainclothes officers and providing air and artillery support for the Upper Dir lashkar, which killed eight more militants on Sunday, according to military officials.
The army is also encouraging others to follow suit: a lashkar of 60 men was raised on Friday in Bannu, another part of NWFP, and another is fighting the Taleban in the tribal region of Bajaur. In Swat local authorities are trying to recruit 6,000 people to a civil militia that will back the police force once the army has withdrawn.
In the tribal region of South Waziristan, meanwhile, the army has enlisted the help of two local rivals to Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Taleban in Pakistan.
One is Qari Zainuddin, a rival leader of the Mehsud tribe, who claims to command about 3,000 men.
The other is Turkistan Bhittani, a former member of the paramilitary Frontier Corps, who is believed to command about 300 men from the Bhittani tribe.
Some critics fear that these lashkars could become part of the problem if the army starts to supply them with weapons and ammunition: Mr Zainuddin and Mr Turkistan remain committed to the jihad in Afghanistan.
Others worry that the army could use the lashkars as an excuse not to enter certain areas at all — particularly in South Waziristan. “I think their importance is somewhat exaggerated,” said retired brigadier Mahmood Shah, a former secretary of Fata.
“I feel these people could be force multipliers but not really a force replacement. There must be a deliberate operation against Baitullah Mehsud.” For the moment, however, the lashkars represent the best hope yet that the Taleban is losing its grip on some corners of Pakistan’s northwest.