Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Orakzai becomes new haven for Taliban

Canadian Armed Forces Blogger

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Orakzai becomes new haven for Taliban

By Abdul Saboor Khan, The Daily Times
HANGU: The Talibanisation of Orakzai Agency in the past few months has resulted in a drastic change in the lifestyles of the tribal residents, as the political administration has retreated and is now restricted to functioning in its Hangu district headquarters.

"Talibanisation has taken strong roots in Orakzai and the region is now run by the Taliban council, which has introduced sharia law," tribesmen who have moved from Orakzai to escape Taliban-style rule told Daily Times on Tuesday.

Orakzai, which borders Kurram in the west and Hangu district in the east, provides a means to the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to expand its influence to Peshawar through Khyber Agency. The organisation has already made its presence in the region known by attacking truck terminals for Afghanistan-bound supplies for NATO and US forces. Despite government attempts to block their infiltration, the Taliban recently celebrated their "complete control" over the region by inviting a group of journalists to the area in a show of power.

According to former residents, the Taliban have set up their own courts to provide 'justice' to the people. They said that the traditional tribal jirga system had been abolished and all development schemes had been halted. The anti-polio drive has also failed and local and foreign militants are seen manning checkposts that were previously held by government forces. "The Taliban have set up sharia courts in Ghaljo, Kundi Mishi, Dabori, Mashti Meli and Ferozkhel in Upper Orakzai," the residents added.

They said the Taliban council had banned women from travelling outside their homes without the escort of male family members. "There is a ban on music and dancing during wedding ceremonies; working of NGOs; and development works," they added.

Each area now has its own Taliban chief and is patrolled by Taliban militants to keep the local population under the control of the TTP, the residents said.

Warning: With the increasing Taliban presence in Orakzai, the pressure is now mounting on Hangu district, where analysts suggest the TTP is fuelling sectarian strife to extend their base. They have warned that unless the government acts to protect the strategic Kohat garrison from the TTP, the group could easily extend its reach to Peshawar.

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