Beena Sarwar: Over the last few years the agenda of local militants and the Taliban have converged - October 4, 2008
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Beena Sarwar is a journalist in Pakistan, former Editor 'The News on Sunday' and Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. She is currently based in Karachi.
A suicide bomber blew himself up near the house of politician Wali Khan, the Chief of the Awami National Party in Pakistan's north-west province. At least four people were killed. Journalist Beena Sarwar states that "over the last few years the agenda of local militants and the Taliban have converged."
Crisis in PakistanProducer: Zaa NkwetaZAA NKWETA, TRNN (VOICEOVER): A suicide bomber blew himself up near the house of politician Wali Khan in Pakistan's northwest on Thursday, killing at least four people.ASFANDER WALI KHAN, CHIEF OF AWAMI NATIONAL PARTY: I am only prepared to talk to people who will lay down their arms, who will accept the writ of the government. Wherever the writ of the government is not accepted, and where people think that they'll shoot us and we will not hit back, I want to make it absolutely clear: if I'm hit, I'll hit back, and I'll hit back very, very strongly.NKWETA: The bombings came as violence in Pakistan continues to make the headlines. The Real News spoke to Beena Sawar in Karachi about the ongoing crisis in Pakistan.BEENA SAWAR, JOURNALIST: It does seem, probably, from the outside that the violence in Pakistan is escalating, but this is a problem that is not new; it is a problem that we've been facing for many years, particularly since the end of the war in Afghanistan against the Soviets. And at that time the mujahideenthe United States and Pakistan would train and arm the mujahideen. They have now morphed into the Taliban. In the meantime, also, the local groups, the homegrown militants, as they're called, are also operating, and they have a pretty much one-point agenda, which is a sectarian agenda, which is against the Shiite population of Pakistan. You have those groups as well. And I think over the last few years the agendas of the Taliban and these local, homegrown militants have converged, and basically they're out to sort of establish their version of an Islamic faith. And I think one of the reasons that's contributed to that is the lack of a democratic process in Pakistan, the fact that there's been army sort of controlled government in power, and people haven't had a chance to express themselves in a democratic way, and we've had a democratically elected government for the first time in about 10 years, and it's going to take us some time to unravel it. The border has always been very porous between Pakistan and Afghanistan. But we've also seen a greater increase in the sophistication of the weapons used. So they're using much higher quality explosives, they're using greater quantity of explosives, and I don't think this would be possible without some kind of leaks within the security apparatus in Pakistan. Intelligence agencies have been linked with these groups, with these local homegrown militants, as they're called, because they were helping them. The intelligence agencies really have to be reined in, and even as they are reined in, maybe there are elements within those agencies that still have links to these groups. The chief of army staff, General Kiyani, has just appointed a new chief of intelligence, of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). That outfit has become a kind of amorphous monster, where nobody seems to be accountable to everybody, and even if the government would be following one policy and the ISI or elements within the ISI would be following another policy. And maybe this reshuffling has to do with getting rid of some Musharraf loyalists and putting in people who will be loyal to the new chief of army staff, because the army is or should be subservient to the government and not the other way around, as it has been in the past in Pakistan. People are getting fed up of this war, especially those on the border areas who were first basically running scared of the Taliban and its elements; then we were caught in a crossfire between the Pakistan army and the militants; and now we're getting bombs rained on us from the American missiles. So that's one aspect of it. And, secondly, the phenomenon of tribesmen themselves taking up arms against the Taliban. Now, that is something that cannot happen without the Pakistan government's support, but the Pakistan government itself is cultivating tribesmen. Now you see the government actually arming the tribesmen, and it's providing them with weapons. You had policemen abandoning their posts and letting the Taliban pretty much take over. I think people are pretty fed up. I think that the disillusionment, of course, is setting in that this government has been in power for six months, and what have they done? They've been going off on foreign tours, and there's a war at home, and the president himself in fact said when he was in New York that we are at war. But this is a war that Pakistan has been at for decades now. We've had bombings and attacks and sectarian killings going onfor the last two or three decades it's been going on. Street violence has escalated, prices have escalated, inflation is at an all-time high, food inflation is at an all-time high. People find it very difficult to see any silver lining in all this. There is a silver lining. We need to grasp it and we need to strengthen it somehow. And that is the fact that the democratic process is continuing, that the political parties, even when they are against each other, they are not being as vicious about each other, and nobody is calling the army in to solve matters now, and that is a change from the past. And I hope that it can stay on this road so we can move forward.DISCLAIMER:Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
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