India and Pakistan are now sharing intelligence on extremists for the first time.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh won a second term and his Congress Party much strengthened its majority in the Indian parliament in the recent elections. As a result, the PM has a free hand to negotiate with Pakistan if he so chooses, since his party can easily outvote the militant Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party. (BJP almost launched a war against Pakistan, which could have turned nuclear) when it was in power in 2002).
Pakistan’s military announced that it had entered the city of Mingora, the largest in the Swat Valley, having surrounded it from four sides. Dawn reports that Major General Athar Abbas announced, “Street fighting has begun in Mingora city which has been encircled from the four sides and house to house search was underway to clear the entire city of miscreants.”
Another official said that the Continental Hotel in Mingora had been cleared of Taliban.
A pincer movement against Peochar from Matta continued, with Taliban said to be fleeing that valley. They are led by Mawlana Fazlullah, and Peochar is their HQ. Locals were said to have complained, on being liberated by the army, that they had been physically abused by the Taliban.
Ordinary Pakistanis, most of whom follow Sufi saints, are extremely upset that the Taliban destroyed a major Sufi shrine. Sufism is a form of Islamic mysticism marked by an emphasis on divine love and attendance at saints’ shrines, where believers seek intercession with God. The Taliban belong to the reformist Deobandi school and are influeced by Saudi Wahhabism, both of which disapproved of attending at the shrines of saints (i.e. they are analogous to extreme Protestants in the early modern period in Europe).
Pakistani business leaders point out that the large military operations in civilian areas of the northwest have paralyzed the economy of that region, and joblessness and displacement could themselves fuel further militancy among the Pushtuns (called Pathans in Pakistan) that predominate there. US officials forced the Pakistani government to launch this anti-Taliban campaign for the purposes of the Afghanistan War, but it is entirely possible that over time they are just making more trouble for themselves.
In other news, Pakistan and Iran started back up their negotiations over the export of natural gas from Iran to Pakistan (it would then likely go to India). The US is opposed to the plan, because it would strengthen Iran.
PS Catch Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN Sunday.
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