An update on this story. Will Pakistan’s military follow through on retaining control of the areas, or have they now looked busy long enough to placate the West for a while? “Pakistani Offensive in Bara Makes Questionable Gains,” by Laura King for the Los Angeles Times, June 30:
PESHAWAR, Pakistan “” When government troops pushed their way into a local warlord’s stronghold just outside one of Pakistan’s major cities over the weekend, what they found followed a familiar pattern.
With plenty of warning from officials that troops were coming, Islamic insurgents in the mountainous Bara district outside Peshawar, the provincial capital, melted away, disappearing into a remote valley to the north.
Pakistani authorities declared yesterday that the district had been restored to their control. But residents said they expected the militants to return whenever it suited them.
What’s more, almost no one in Bara’s dusty and deprived main town had anything bad to say about the vanished warlord, Menghal Bagh, an illiterate bus driver-turned-cleric. Mr. Bagh maintained law and order, people said, and the shadow government he set up in recent months was more effective than the state-sanctioned one.
Even after he and his men had decamped, the black flags of his group, Lashkar-i-Islami, or Army of Islam, still fluttered from homes, schools, and government buildings….
More about Bagh and his popular support in “Flags over Pakistani town signal militant support,” from Reuters, June 30:
…Though he and his men are feared by many in Peshawar, in Bara town, a Bagh stronghold about 15km southwest of Peshawar, the thin commander with a bushy beard is well regarded.
“He’s nice man. He’s being painted as a bad man because he talks about Islam,” said resident Fazal-e-Mehboob standing by the debris of Bagh’s house that security forces blew up on Saturday.