Here is the ultimate consequence of a series of “truces” with jihadists in the Northwest Frontier Province. “Pakistani city of Peshawar could fall to Taliban as fear and attacks grow,” by Nick Meo for the Telegraph, August 30:
When the summer holidays end tomorrow, the parents of 1,400 pupils at the Badabher Government Girls’ School will face a difficult choice.
Should they let their daughters go back to lessons in the rubble of their school, blown up by the Taliban in the middle of the night, or should they keep them safe at home?
Hashim, the caretaker who was held at gunpoint by masked gunmen, was warned that they would be back if the school is rebuilt. He fears that next time they could blow it up with pupils inside.
Yet this is not Kandahar, the Taliban capital of southern Afghanistan, but Peshawar – a city of 1.4 million people in neighbouring Pakistan, once celebrated as a cultural haven for artists, musicians and intellectuals.
A year ago schools were considered safe in the city, the capital of North-West Frontier Province. But the Taliban insurgency that has been growing in the wild mountains that rise in the distance is spreading into urban Pakistan.
Clerics and political leaders critical of the Taliban have been kidnapped and shot dead, around 15 suicide bombers have attacked inside the city, and to escape kidnappers businessmen are giving up and moving to the capital Islamabad, two hours drive away, or overseas to Dubai if they can afford to.
Nobody has ever known the city so fearful.
And signs of a backlash from local residents may be too little, too late, especially if government forces don’t support them.
Musli Khan, a clerk who lives near the remains of the school, was disconsolately picking through the mess. The main building collapsed from the force of the explosion and the walls that were left were riddled with giant cracks.
Some chairs and schoolbooks had been pulled from the rubble, he said, gesturing at a damaged Koran.
“And these people say they are Muslims,” Mr Khan muttered, shaking his head sadly before checking himself: it is dangerous now to be too critical of the Taliban, especially in suburbs on the outskirts of Peshawar. Here, at night, the police must lock themselves into fortified outposts for safety, and armed fighters prowl at will.
During a hasty and nervous drive to Badabher, only six miles from the city centre, The Sunday Telegraph passed three police stations which have been attacked with rockets in the past few weeks. “You must not stop for long at the school,” said our guide, a local reporter. “Out here the Taliban have their spies everywhere.”
On the same morning that the school was blown up last week, America’s chief diplomat in the province narrowly escaped assassination when her car was ambushed as she drove to work. […]
Taliban influence has even crept into Qissa Kawani, the street of the storytellers, in the heart of Peshawar’s bazaars, where the mournful chanting of a Taliban CD was playing.
“I hate that noise,” said Insanullah, the owner of a shop selling Pushtun music DVDs which he is now too scared to play.
Music store owners have been killed in bombings and he receives threatening letters but said he will continue because he has invested all his money in his little shop and has no other livelihood. On the city outskirts most have closed down.
“People still like music, but they are afraid for their lives and business is terrible,” he said.
One of the city’s most famous singers, Baryali, moved to Kabul to be safe and another, Wazir Khan, was briefly kidnapped by the Taliban and has gone into hiding since his release.
The city’s cinemas are almost empty because customers fear bombs and even Peshawar’s poets are censoring themselves.
Taous Dilsouz used to write songs about the war against the Soviets, then about Pakistani politics, but these days he sticks to safe subjects. “No poets will write songs about what is happening to our city,” he said. “And even if they did they could not find singers who are brave enough to sing them.”
Outside Peshawar it is much worse. Assadullah Khan, a watchman from the town of Mardan which is still nominally under government control, said: “Out of five brothers in my town, one will support the Taliban. The people are poor and illiterate, and they listen to what the clerics say. Some of my friends have joined the Taliban — they pay them for fighting.”…