Not that this should come as a surprise. “Taliban ‘infiltrating Pakistan cities’,” by Bruce Loudon for the Australian, October 14:
Fears over the “Talibanisation” of Pakistan’s major urban centres rose sharply yesterday after a warning from one of the country’s most powerful leaders that 400,000 militants had infiltrated Karachi, the teeming port city vital to bringing in supplies for coalition forces in Afghanistan.
At the same time, nervous traders in the Punjab city of Lahore, the former capital of the Mughal empire that has long been regarded as a beacon of cultural freedom in the region, were reported to be setting fire to “immoral” videos and CDs after receiving warnings from the Taliban against such stock.
The action follows the bombing of several fresh fruit juice bars in the city after the owners ignored warnings to stop allowing boys and girls to “indulge in immoral acts” on the premises.
Such “immoral acts” generally amount to no more than enjoying a juice together, but have apparently caused offence to the Taliban.
Both cities are far from the battlegrounds of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the North West Frontier Province, which have been the main targets for the fast-encroaching militancy. Nervousness about the Talibanisation of both cities is seen as a reflection of how rapidly the jihadis are advancing into key urban areas.
Particular concern centres on Karachi, a city of between 15million and 17 million people that gained notoriety for the abduction and murder by militants of The Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. It is Pakistan’s business capital and major port.
Military supplies vital for the war against the Taliban are brought into Karachi, and then sent by road through the NWFP to Afghanistan.
The city has immense strategic significance. But Altaf Hussein, leader of the Muttahida Quami Movement, the party that controls Karachi and is allied to the Pakistan People’s Party coalition Government that rules Pakistan, warned it was heavily infiltrated, saying: “More than 400,000 Afghan nationals have arrived in the city, fully equipped with the latest automatic weapons.”
Mr Hussein, who lives in exile in London but maintains his grip on the MQM members who run Karachi, said his followers were gearing up to defend the city.
Mr Hussein’s warning follows other indications of Taliban encroachment, with many militants displaced from the fighting in the tribal areas reportedly migrating to the metropolis.
Much of the growing militancy in Karachi is believed to be centred on the estimated 2000 illegal madrassas operating in the heavily populated western districts that are a hotbed of support for the Taliban.
“Save our city from Talibanisation” slogans have been daubed on walls in Karachi.
And reports yesterday said “the Talibanisation of Lahore had begun”, with The News newspaper claiming traditionally robust traders in the city of more than 10 million people were unwilling to confront the Taliban.
“This acquiescence, this formal display of obsequiousness, is a real eye-opener,” the paper said, saying the local traders’ organisation was showing itself to be “impotent against the Taliban” and the threats being made.
Amid the fears of jihadi militancy encroachments into major urban areas, some of the heaviest fighting seen so far in the tribal areas was reported yesterday, with Pakistan’s security forces claiming to have killed more than 50 militants in a single day in two key battleground regions — Bajaur and Orakzai.