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Pakistan's war against Taliban going badly

By Tahir Ali
December 08, 2009 19:38 IST
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The offensive launched by the Pakistan army against the Taliban in South Waziristan, touted as the 'mother of all military operations' inside the heartland of the militant movement, has failed to yield the expected results.

Even as the army battles Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan's militants headed by Hakimullah Mehsud, the government has decided to adopt another approach to end the spate of terror strikes on its soil.

As part of this strategy, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has urged religious scholars to issue fatwas against the Taliban  militants, by terming them as kafirs (non-believers).

Before the onset of the offensive, Mehsud had instructed the militants to vacate their strongholds in South Waziristan, and then wait for the army to enter before launching a guerilla-style warfare against them.

Many TTP militants have managed to escape to the Federally Administered Tribal Area and across the border to Afghanistan, and only a few have been killed during the large-scale operation.

The militants have also stepped up terror strikes against the government by targeting major cities including Rawalpindi, Lahore and Multan, the hometown of Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani.

In an attempt to dissuade the hardline militants, Malik has urged the renowned Ulemas (clerics) of the country to issue fatwas against suicide attacks, bomb blasts and to term the activities of the Taliban as Kufr (un-Islamic).  

Responding to the government's plea, Tahirul Qadri, founding leader of Minhaj-ul-Quran International, became the first cleric to term Taliban activities as Kufr.

"Any armed struggle against an Islamic state falls within the domain of rebellion," stated Qadri.

Mufti Munibur Rehman, another prominent cleric, also supported Qadri's stance, saying, "The things going in Pakistan are against the teachings of Islam, which is maligning the true sense of the religion," he said.

However, these admonitions by religious figures may fail to deter the Taliban, who follow the Deobandi doctrine, while both Qadri and Rehman represent the Bralvi school of thought. The Taliban have not shown any particular benevolent attitude towards Deobandi Ulemas either -- prominent clerics like Maulana Hasan Jan and Dr Sarfraz Ahmed Naeemi have been mercilessly killed in the past.

As the wave of terror attacks continues across Pakistan, the government is mulling every possible solution to end the bloodshed, and may even consider a peace deal with the Taliban in South Waziristan.

The government has already sealed similar agreements with militant leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar in North Waziristan and Mullah Nazir in the tribal areas of South Waziristan.

According to the terms of the peace deal, widely criticised by the Western nations, the militants refrain from attacking the Pakistan army but continue to wage a war against the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's troops in neighbouring Afghanistan.

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Tahir Ali in Islamabad