On the Militant Trail: A Series by Syed Saleem Shahzad

A battle before a battle
Life appears normal in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, Syed Saleem Shahzadobserves as he speeds through its streets on the back of a motorcycle with an al-Qaeda contact. But under the surface of this strategic city at the crossroads with Afghanistan the mood is tense ahead of a widely expected showdown between militants and the Pakistan security forces. The United States is watching intently. (Jan 28,’09)

Faceless Taliban rule 
The Taliban in Malakand Agency in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province have established their influence not at the barrel of a gun but by addressing the grievances of the people. Greedy and arrogant doctors, criminals with links to politicians and the police and brothels all feel the sting of the Taliban. This “creeping Talibanization” thrives in an environment of corruption and bad governance. (Jan 29,’09)

Swat Valley: Whose war is this?
Over the past 18 months, Pakistan has used the police, paramilitary forces, politically backed militias and the army itself in an attempt to tame the Taliban in the Swat Valley. The militants are as strong as ever, providing a vital network for the insurgency in Afghanistan. Syed Saleem Shahzad travels deep into what was once the most tranquil and beautiful of valleys, and finds devastation and a very determined Taliban who claim the land as their own. (Jan 30,’09) 

Taliban ideology echoes across the valley
From being Pakistan’s premier tourist destination, the  Swat Valley is essentially off-limits as theTaliban forge ahead in their quest to implement sharia law. Taliban leader and spokesman Haji Muslim  Khan traces the roots of this struggle to the system of government the country inherited from the British, and laments how his countrymen have become “slaves”. Khan gives his side of the story over alleged Taliban misdeeds and in sourcing weapons, and reserves his strongest vitriol for “traitorous” Pashtuns. He speaks to Syed Saleem Shahzad(Feb 2,’09)

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