NWFP/FATA map. Red agencies/ districts controlled by the Taliban; yellow under threat. Click map to view.
Checkpoints set up to enforce sharia in the latest agency signed over to the Pakistani Taliban
Less than two months after the Pakistani government negotiated with the Taliban in Bajaur, the Taliban have openly flexed their muscles in the troubled tribal agency. On Satuday, “militants,” described as Taliban but very likely the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi [TNSM – the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law], or Pakistani Taliban, set up check points and harassed the locals for not being sufficiently Islamic. The TNSM deployed over 250 fighters along the roads in Bajaur, at one point no less than 3 miles from Khar, the agency headquarters. “Local authorities allegedly made no attempt to deal with the threat,” reported Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
TNSM fighters openly carried assault rifles as they confiscated tape decks, audio cassettes, CDs, videos cell phones and cameras. “Zahidullah Khan, a driver, told Dawn that the masked men forced passengers without beard to leave vehicles in Baddi Saya and Umari areas and warned them of ‘strict action’ if they did not grow beard… In Inayat Kali [the town 3 miles from Khar], residents said a large group of people carrying automatic assault rifles had warned owners of music centres to wind up their business and the owners had started removing CDs and cassettes from their shops.”
TNSM is a banned terrorist movement inside Pakistan, and has been implicated in terrorist activity inside the country, including a suicide attack on Pakistani Army training base in Dargai in the Northwest Frontier Province in October of 2006. The attack killed over 45 soldiers. Faqir Mohammad, a leader in the TNSM, has sheltered none other than Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second in command. An attack in Damadola in January of 2006 on Faqir’s compound was aimed at Zawahiri, but killed upwards of 5 senior al Qaeda leaders, including Abu Khabab al-Masri, al Qaeda’s chief of its weapons of mass destruction program.
Last October, an airstrike on the Chingai madrassa, which doubled as a Taliban training camp, killed up to 84 Taliban, including Liaquat Hussain, the leader of the madrassa, and Faqir’s deputy. The attack came just days before the expected signing of the Bajaur Accord in October of 2006. Days before the Chingai raid, Faqir openly praised al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Faqir referred to bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar as “heroes of the Muslim world,” and he vowed joint efforts to fight the “enemies of peace” in the Bajaur Agency. Faqir calls the United States the enemy of peace.
Under the leadership of Faqir Mohammed and his TNSM, Bajaur has become an al Qaeda command and control center which is used to launch operations into eastern Afghanistan. Kunar, the Afghan province which borders Bajaur, is one of the most violent in Afghanistan.
The open demonstration of power by the TNSM only serves to highlight the utter failure of the Bajaur Accord, and the Waziristan Accord which preceded it. The TNSM/Taliban and al Qaeda have consolidated their power in the tribal, and continue to openly flaunt their power, while the Pakistani government stands aside and encourages further “peace deals.”
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.