Pakistan balks at taking on the Punjabi Taliban

Despite the numerous, heinous terror attacks carried out in Pakistan’s major cities, the Pakistani government is hesitant to take on the myriad of home-grown and supported terror groups known as the Punjabi Taliban. Yesterday, Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s Minister of the Interior, stated that “no military operation is planned against banned outfits in Punjab, rather effective action would jointly be taken to eliminate them,” according to a report in the Associated Press of Pakistan.

What that “effective action” may be is not yet clear, but one thing that is clear is that there are tens of thousands of trained terrorists in Punjab. According to a September 2009 report in Newsline, the district of Bahawalpur, just one of many in Punjab province, “alone could boast of approximately 15,000-20,000 trained militants” from the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Lashkar-e-Taiba. These terror groups, which were created and supported by Pakistan’s military and religious establishment over the past four decades, are entrenched in Punjab.

The New York Times has a good read on the situation in the Punjab. Pakistani politicians openly and proudly campaign with the leaders of these “banned” groups to garner votes, while the government pretends the problem doesn’t exist. Even though NATO supply terminals have to be shut down throughout the Punjab due to terror threats (these terminals have been hit in Mianwali in Punjab in the past). All the while, the number of madrassas in Punjab grows (from The New York Times):

A program announced by Mr. Zardari two years ago to rein in the madrasas has yet to get off the ground, blocked by bureaucratic inertia and fears of a backlash from powerful conservative religious groups, Pakistani officials say. As state-sponsored education becomes too expensive for poor parents, the number of madrasas has actually increased in the past three years, to more than 17,000 in 2010 from 13,000 in 2007. At least several thousand of the madrasas churn out militant students, experts say.

Former President Pervez Musharraf also claimed he instituted changes to clean up the madrassa system in Pakistan to prevent the schools from being used to recruit jihadists. That, like his jihadist purges of the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, clearly did not work out too well.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • T Ruth says:

    Not one thing surprising about it.
    Just goes to show that the core is as rotten as the rest of it!
    Pakistan by any measure, is today the most violent country on the planet. The combination of that violence and unbridled corruption will assure Pakistan’s ultimate demise.
    What the US is doing in supporting this lot i have no idea.
    The sad part for the ordinary Pakistani is that those in power today, political and military, will be the first to hop on a plane and seek refuge in the US and Britain. They will have stashed away enough greenbacks, US aid and deal money of course, to support a couple of generations.
    The Pakistani people know this and thats one reason why they don’t like the the US because there is absolutely nothing in it, personally, for the massive majority of the 170 million. But they are powerless and can do nothing about it, except those who decide to go pick up a gun.
    The US-Pak engagement over the decades is a case study of naive politics. A failure by any other name.
    Good luck Hillary with that strategic dialogue. Its a pretty foggy bottom out there.

  • Setrak says:

    It’s the Sharifs/PML-N. The younger Sharif, Shahbaz, is the chief minister of Punjab and wields considerable power. This would be the same Sharif that caused a stir earlier this year for politely asking the militants to “leave Punjab province alone”.
    On the other hand, the Haqqani network seems to think that a Pakistani army offensive is imminent. An unconfirmed report in the Pakistani Express Tribune claims the Haqqani network is starting to move their infrastructure out of North Waziristan.( // )


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