Taliban stage a coup of their
own By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - While the world's attention
focused on the troubles of President General
Pervez Musharraf following his declaration of a
state of emergency in Pakistan at the weekend, the
Taliban have launched a coup of their own in
Afghanistan and the Pashtun areas of Pakistan.
Pakistani troops had prevented the Taliban
from launching their planned post-Ramadan (Muslim
holy month) offensive into Afghanistan by invading
the Pakistani North Waziristan and South
Waziristan tribal areas on
The Taliban managed to set up a
counter engagement by stirring their network in
the Swat Valley in North-West Frontier Province,
which took the pressure off the Waziristans. The
November 4 declaration of an emergency and the
preparations before it was enforced distracted the
military. As a result, several villages and towns
in the Swat Valley, only a drive of four hours
from Islamabad, have fallen to the Taliban without
a single bullet being fired - fearful Pakistani
security forces simply surrendered their weapons.
The Taliban have secured similar successes
in the northwestern Afghan province of Farah and
the southwestern provinces of Uruzgan and
Kandahar, where districts have fallen without much
A new wave of attacks is
expanding the Taliban's grip in the southeastern
provinces of Khost and Kunar. And on Tuesday, the
Taliban are suspected to have been responsible for
the massive suicide attack in northern Baghlan
province in which scores of people died, including
a number of parliamentarians, most notably Sayed
Mustafa Kazimi, the Hazara Shi'ite leader.
Such unexpected offensives have become a
hallmark of the Taliban. They surprised many with
their successful spring offensive in 2006, when
the West had already anticipated their demise.
The Taliban occupied several key districts
in the southwest and then as the winter snows
closed in - normally a time for the guns to fall
silent - they struck ceasefire deals with
coalition troops. The aim was that once the
weather improved, they would launch a mass
uprising and force the surrender of major cities.
However, the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO) coalition sprung a surprise of
its own by breaking the ceasefire agreements and
conducting military operations one after the other
from December 2006 onwards against the unprepared
This forced the Taliban's abrupt
retreat from important arteries and effectively
ended the dream of a mass uprising this spring.
Instead, the Taliban turned more to the use of
improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks
to irritate the enemy rather than cause serious
NATO was relaxed during the month
of Ramadan as Afghans generally don't fight in
this period, and with the winter setting in, it
was believed that the next Taliban action would
only take place next spring.
Taliban have taken advantage of Pakistan's
political troubles - the Pakistani army is busy
saving its political interests in Islamabad - to
keep on fighting in what is probably their first
real winter offensive.
The fate of the
Taliban's offensives in Afghanistan and Pakistan
are closely linked with the fate of Musharraf's
second coup. He will have to restore the country
to normalcy very quickly. If not, the Taliban will
go from strength to strength and a vital US-led
"war on terror" theater will be closed.
Political shambles "It is the
duty of every citizen, and especially lawyers, to
struggle for the supremacy of law, independence of
the judiciary and real democracy," lawyer Shaukat
Rauf cited Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed
Chaudhry as saying in a telephone address to the
bar in Islamabad on Tuesday.
one of thousands of lawyers and opposition members
to have been arrested or placed under house arrest
Chaudhry's defiant call
illustrates that rolling back the emergency is
only a part of the problem - what is wanted is the
reinstatement of deposed judges and the full
restoration of an independent judiciary.
The imposition of the emergency came as
the Supreme Court was about to deliver its verdict
on whether Musharraf could run for president while
still serving as army chief. Last month, he was
reelected by an overwhelming majority in national
and provincial assemblies.
boycotted the polls and asked the Supreme Court to
intervene and the judges ordered that official
results be withheld until a verdict was reached.
It is thought the court planned to rule against
Musharraf, hence emergency rule.
has had run-ins with Musharraf before. He was
suspended in March for alleged malfeasance (the
real reason was the judiciary's opposition to
Musharraf's role as army chief). Widespread
protests and violence followed, and eventually
when the Supreme Court reinstated Chaudhry, the
Musharraf regime had little choice but to accept
Chaudhry might be detained
for now, but he has emerged as a formidable foe
for Musharraf, and his following is growing by the
Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia
Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org