The end of Pakistan is near

Background current

Northwest Pakistan is not coming to rest: According to its own statements, the Pakistani army freed around 80 people who were kidnapped by the Taliban on Monday (June 1st, 2009). After the failure of an agreement between the Taliban and the Pakistani government, fighting in the region has raged again for a month.

The abductees are said to be students and instructors from a military school. Initial eyewitness reports spoke of several hundred hostages, but the exact number was unclear. The Islamist Taliban took control of it on Monday. One day later (June 2nd, 2009) they were freed by soldiers in the Goryam district in North Waziristan after a brief firefight, as reported by Major General Athar Abbas. The terrorists then fled - the hostage drama was over, said Abbas. The Taliban are said to have tried to kidnap the hostages to South Waziristan, where an offensive by the Pakistani armed forces against the Islamists is expected in the coming days.

The north-west of the country, in particular the region around the Swat Valley, has been the site of heavy fighting between the Pakistani army and groups of the Taliban for a month. The background to this is an agreement that Pakistan's head of state Asif Ali Zardari negotiated in April 2009 that failed: The Taliban should lay down their arms and, in return, be allowed to introduce Sharia in the Malakand region, which includes the Swat Valley and five other districts. By making concessions to the militants, the Pakistani leadership wanted to break the spiral of violence. However, the calculation did not work out: The Taliban brought several districts under their control from the Swat Valley and also moved closer to the capital Islamabad. Thereupon the Pakistani army intervened again in the end of April with a new offensive. According to Pakistani information, the military had recaptured Mingora, the most important city in the Swat Valley, from the insurgents over the weekend.

The civilian population is also increasingly affected by the fighting. According to the United Nations, over a million people are now on the run in northwestern Pakistan. More than 100,000 Pakistani leave their homes every day. In addition, there are 550,000 refugees who were already displaced during fighting in August 2008. It is unclear how many civilians were killed and how many are still trapped in the combat zones.

Pakistan's stability has been endangered since the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley at the end of 2008 and established a quasi-autonomy here. Since 2006 there has been increasing talk of a "Talibanization" of the northwestern border province and the Pashtun tribal areas (Federally-Administered Tribal Areas, FATA). Here a new generation of tribal leaders asserted themselves who no longer fought in Afghanistan, but chose the Pakistani state as the target of their activities. After the storming of the Red Mosque in Islamabad, the center of radical Islamists, in 2007, the Islamists withdrew to northwest Pakistan and the neighboring tribal areas - areas over which the Pakistani government has always had little control.

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