Pakistan emergency ‘aiding Taliban’

Fighters advance as Bhutto vows to go ahead with a protest against emergency rule.

Taliban fighters now control around 70 percent of the Swat Valley [Al Jazeera]
Taliban fighters now control around 70 percent of the Swat Valley [Al Jazeera]

The rising violence close to the border with Afghanistan was one justification for the current emergency declared by General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president.
‘Protection’ offer


The Taliban are said to have taken control of public buildings, including

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police stations.


Mawlana Mohammed Alem, a local Taliban leader told Al Jazeera: “We wish to provide security to the public, who can no longer tolerate the unjust prejudicial acts of the police.


“We wish to provide protection under the Islamic Sharia law.


“Banks face trouble transporting money, we are prepared to provide them with protection,” he said.


Local residents say heavy-handed police tactics are one of the reasons Taliban support is growing.


“The police here commit atrocities against the residents and the law provides protection only for senior officers,” one man told Al Jazeera.

“Taliban supporters have not caused us any harm; our electricity was cut and they managed to restore it in one hour,” another said.


People ‘terrorised’


There are also reports that as the Taliban spread out from their traditional stronghold on the Afghan border, they are shutting girls’ schools and setting fire to shops selling Western music in Swat.


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Imitaz Gul, a political analyst in Islamabad, told Al Jazeera: “We have been getting calls from a number of people who are complaining about how these Taliban have terrorised them, despite the presence of the police and army.


“So the question is: Where is the state?”


In Islamabad, Benazir Bhutto vowed to go ahead with a planned rally next week to protest against the emergency rule.


In a show of defiance on Saturday, the former prime minister joined a small journalists’ demonstration in the capital against media restrictions under the state of emergency.

“I have come here to express solidarity with you. I condemn these curbs,” she said.

‘Passion for liberty’
Jamil Soomro, a senior leader from Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), said that a long march from Lahore to Islamabad will take place next Tuesday.

The former prime minister was defiant
after her house arrest [AFP]

“On the 13th, it [the motorcade] will go ahead. If she’s not there, the rally will still happen,” Soomro said.


Later on Saturday, Bhutto was blocked by police from visiting Iftikhar Chaudry, the country’s deposed chief justice, at his home where he has been confined since emergency rule was imposed


Addressing foreign diplomats at an evening meeting, she called for support to end the state of emergency imposed by Musharraf a week ago.


“Pakistan under dictatorship is a pressure cooker. Without a place to vent, the passion of our people for liberty threatens to explode,” she said.

‘Ending emergency’


Meanwhile, Pakistan’s attorney general hinted at an early end to emergency rule.


In video

Watch James Bay’s report on the Swat Valley

“The state of emergency will end within one month,” Malik Mohammed Qayyum said.


Pakistan‘s slide into political uncertainty has accelerated over the past week after Musharraf declared his country under emergency rule.


Thousands of his opponents have been arrested.

Pakistan’s government on  Saturday ordered three journalists from Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper to leave the country because of its “foul and abusive language” against Musharraf.


Musharraf has cracked down on both domestic and foreign media since the imposition of the state of emergency.


Musharraf has said elections will be held by February 15, about a month later than they were due.


He also said he would quit as army chief and be sworn in as a civilian president once new judges appointed to the supreme court struck down challenges against his re-election.


An interior ministry spokesman said 2,500 people had been detained, though Bhutto’s party says 5,000 of their activists have been picked up over the past few days.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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