The government loses ground to the jihadists in Pakistan. This is, of course, a phenomenon about which we have posted many articles, and which once again demonstrates the power of the jihadists’ appeal to represent “pure Islam” — an appeal to which peaceful Muslims have never mounted an adequate response. “Pakistan losing territory to radicals: The rise of a powerful cleric exposes economic and political failures in a government-administered area,” by David Montero for The Christian Science Monitor (thanks to DFS):
SWAT, Pakistan – In this valley of orchards near Afghanistan, 90 police hid along the banks of a riverbed in March, preparing to arrest the powerful Pakistani cleric Maualana Fazlullah. Informants said the target, charged with terrorism, would soon appear with a modest contingent of followers. Instead, Mr. Fazlullah rode into sight on a white horse, surrounded by hundreds of people.
When the officers advanced, brandishing tear gas and batons, word flew through the town. Thousands more supporters turned out to further protect Fazlullah. The officers backed off in an incident that shocked the country, exposing as it did the state’s powerlessness to apprehend a wanted terrorist.
Such scenes are common in the tribal agencies of Waziristan, where the Taliban hold sway under a controversial truce signed with the government in September. But Swat is not Waziristan: It rests squarely in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), a government-administered area long considered beyond such lawlessness.
The rise of Fazlullah exposes the economic and political failures fanning extremism even in these areas, and hints at the consequences, both for Pakistan and the international community, if the province continues down a path of deprivation. Allow him to persist, many observers say, and others will be emboldened to roll back the state’s policies of moderation — small but symbolically important gains in women’s empowerment, girls’ education, and religious tolerance.
“My opinion is, if you take him out today, there will be a reaction,” says Asfandiar Amir Zeb, a former mayor of the district of Swat. “Leave it for a month, there will be a bigger reaction. If you leave it for six months, you won’t be able to catch him.”
Read it all.