How much of a threat is the growing influence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan, and is it pushing the country toward civil war?

The Pakistani military is fighting a major offensive against the Taliban in the volatile northwest.

A weak central government is helpless in the face of repeated suicide bombings that have killed hundreds across the country.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for many of those attacks, claiming it is retaliation against the army operation.

Islamabad is now battling against a group whose government it once supported in Afghanistan.

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The seeds of the Pakistani Taliban are believed to have been sown in 2001 when tens of thousands of Afghan fighters sought sanctuary in Pakistan's tribal areas during the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Critics say Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistani president, turned a blind eye to the Taliban because Islamabad saw the group as a potential counter force against India.

On Tuesday’s Riz Khan we ask: Is the Taliban pushing Pakistan into a permanent state of anarchy and could that destabilise the rest of South Asia?

We will talk to Pakistani journalist and author Ahmed Rashid. He has written several books on the influence of al-Qaeda and the Taliban in South and Central Asia. His latest book is Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.

This episode of the Riz Khan show aired on Tuesday, January 12, 2010.

Source: Al Jazeera