Pakistan diary: Peshawar protests

Refugees flee Swat in 'the biggest movement of people since 1947 partition'.


    Taliban fighters have launched frequent and deadly attacks in Peshawar - the commercial and cultural hub of the frontier province [EPA]

    Imran Khan, Al Jazeera's reporter in Pakistan, will be filing regular dispatches from the country as the army battles Taliban fighters in the North West Frontier Province.

    Peshawar, Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 09:22 GMT

    Peshawar is a town with a past littered with the ghosts of war.

    A palpable fear now hangs over the city after frequent deadly attacks [EPA]
    Traditionally it has inhabited the crossroads between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    It was here the British Empire headquartered its great game against Russia in the 19th century.

    It is here that the Afghan mujahideen gathered logistics to fight their war against Russian occupation in the 1980's.

    This dusty town with its cobbled alleyways was the place where CIA agents mingled with their Pakistani counterparts to conduct their war in Afghanistan after the twin towers in New York fell.

    And now Peshawar is once again at the centre of conflict.

    It's already home to thousands of refugees fleeing those wars in Afghanistan.

    But this time its war is raging within Pakistan's borders and those refugees are Pakistani.

    It's had an incredible effect on Pakistan.

    The media here have dubbed this the biggest movement of people since partition, when millions crossed the new border between Pakistan and India in 1947.

    "The media here have dubbed this the biggest movement of people since partition... in 1947"

    Ordinary Pakistanis have taken to the streets demanding the fighting stops.

    One taxi driver told me he fears the break-up of Pakistan.

    Another shop owner in one of Peshawar's hotels says war will only make the situation worse, that the Taliban will hide in the mountains and fight until the bitter end.

    The bitter end.

    It's worth thinking about how exactly Pakistan will end its military operation.

    The government wants a swift operation that will allow them to claim victory.

    Analysts say the army wants to be able to secure the area quickly and withdraw leaving the police in charge.

    At the time of writing, the end is nowhere in sight.

    The only thing we can say with any degree of certainty is that Pakistanis will flood into the camps and the battle still rages.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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