Guns, not golf, as Pak Army battles militants
No tourists are hitting balls down the fairways of the once-peaceful Kabal golf course in Swat valley these days. Quite the contrary, the army has taken over the course as it battles Islamist militants who had tried to impose a Taliban-style rule in the valley in North West Frontier Province.
A helicopter gunship is at the ready on one of the brown fairways while on another, big guns have been dug in, their long barrels pointing towards distant mountains. They have killed so many militants, says Major Mohammad Shafique of his battery of six 130mm artillery pieces that can fire a shell at a distance of 33 kilometres.
The Swat valley had been a popular tourist destination with guides describing the sprawling and scenic golf course, built by a former princely ruler, as a golfers paradise. But this year well-armed militants appeared and began to enforce their brand of hardline Sharia law. Led by a young,
lunatic charismatic mullah called Fazlullah, the militants, many, like Fazlullah, believed to be veterans of Afghan fighting, attacked the police, closed girls schools and video shops and tried to destroy Buddhist holy sites.
beat it disappeared when challenged and soon the militants held sway over a string of small towns along the Swat river, including Kabal. Last month, the army launched an offensive which the commander in charge said had succeeded in clearing the militants from most of the valley, sending them and Fazlullah running into remote valleys to the northwest. Were striking them wherever they are, Major General Nasser Janjua told a group of reporters in Mingora, the valleys main town, on Saturday.
Janjua said his troops had killed 290 of the militants, who he said were supported by the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and captured 143 in the offensive involving 20,000 troops. He said only six of his men had been killed. The threat is scattered, the threat is diluted, he said at his sand-bagged headquarters set up in a government guest house.
Rs 200 a day to fight for mullah: Janjua said Fazlullah had been able to whip up a following of about 5,000 people with his calls for strict Islamic law broadcast over his private FM radio station. The mullah also paid young men Rs 200 a day to fight for him, Janjua said. But most of Fazlullahs recruits from the valley had melted back into the population since the offensive began, leaving him with a hard core of about 500 followers, including many foreigners, Janjua said. He said some Uzbeks were with Fazlullah but declined to say where others were from. Anywhere he goes I chase him using my artillery, using my helicopters, he said. His militancy has to be eroded.
|Toldja so. The bad guys aren't real Talibs, but the TNSM. The local cops aren't much, so they ran away. The Frontier Corps and the local levees are just about as useful as the cops. The Mighty Pak army approximates a trained force and the TNSM melted away, though they'll try to do the Islamic Courts/AQI thing. Things will look different when (or if) they take on the Mehsuds. |
Janjua said it would take another three to four months to secure the valley. I think he will try to regroup and strike me again, at least once. He said it would probably be a year before tourists ventured back to the valley, some, no doubt, hoping to get in a quiet round of golf.
|Maybe you should think real hard about using some of that artillery and a heli or two to kill the holy man? |
Posted by: Fred 2007-12-10