101 East

Pakistan: The Enemy Within

As western forces withdraw from Afghanistan, how long can Pakistan's army hold off the Taliban in South Waziristan?

Last Modified: 01 Nov 2013 07:05
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In Pakistan's volatile South Waziristan the temporary peace was hard won. Previous battles have left villages ruined, and some are only now being rebuilt. Girls are even going to school - a rare sight in areas previously ruled by the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The Pakistani army is keen to show how it has managed to kick out the Taliban and restore a more conventional order to the country's tribal areas.

But many villagers claim life was fine under the Taliban, and that the army's intervention was unnecessary and destructive.

"No one was afraid because they were all locals, and all were Pakistanis. Everything was open - the markets - everyone was roaming around as normal. Everything was normal," says a villager in a rebuilt market.

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Even Ahmed Rashid, Pakistan's foremost expert on the Taliban groups in the region, agrees. He claims that the US military focus on Afghanistan and the Pakistan government's duplicity there, has radicalised and emboldened a local variant of the Taliban, now bent on overthrowing the government and installing Sharia law.

"There has been this double game that has gone on for many years, of Pakistan supporting the NATO presence in Afghanistan and at the same time allowing the Afghan Taliban to operate against the NATO forces. There is now a full-scale extremist movement in Pakistan that is trying to overthrow the state," explains Rashid.

In a major effort to regain the trust of the locals, the Pakistani army is rebuilding markets, houses, and even constructing a high school for girls. 

But with western forces withdrawing from neighbouring Afghanistan, there is fear of more destruction and bloodshed if the Taliban try to reclaim their lands tucked alongside the Afghan border.

So when the western troops withdraw from the area, how long will the Pakistani army's hold last? Will the army's success be enduring or just a fleeting chapter in a long history of changing rule in an area that neighbours Afghanistan?

In an area off limits to most locals, let alone foreign film crews, 101 East gains rare access to Pakistan's war against the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan. 

How long can Pakistan's army hold off the #Taliban in South Waziristan? Share your thoughts with us @AJ101East #PakistanEnemyWithin

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