Pakistan has announced the arrest of a major leader of the Swat Taliban, Muslim Khan, and four other local leaders. The arrest is important for the credibility of the Swat operation, which cleared the Taliban from the major city of Mingora and surroundings, and which left dozens of Taliban dead, but which produced few arrests of high-level figures. The Pakistani military is hoping that Muslim Khan will give up the whereabouts of Maulana Fazlullah, a central leader of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (Taliban Movement of Pakistan).
The massive military operation to clear the Swat Valley of militants was extremely costly in lives and displacement, making some 2 mn. residents homeless. Most of the displaced have now returned, but often their homes or children’s schools have been damaged. Pakistan’s prime minister Yousuf Riza Gilana has repeatedly called on NATO member states to make good on their pledges of aid for the returnees.
Muslim Khan’s capsule biography is worth thinking about:
‘ Born on Aug 8, 1954, in Swat’s Kuza Banda tehsil, Muslim Khan matriculated in humanities group from Jehanzeb College, Swat. It was there that he joined the People’s Students Federation — student wing of the Pakistan People’s Party — during the early 1970s.
He joined the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation as a seaman, but left two years later to go to Kuwait to work in a transport company. He returned home when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and set up a medical store.
Muslim Khan went to the United States in 1999 where he worked as a house painter. He is fluent in English, Arabic, Persian and Urdu, besides mother tongue Pushto, and has travelled to 15 countries in Europe and the Middle East. ‘
Note that he began his political career in the relatively secular and then left of center Pakistan People’s Party, and that he resided in the US (working as a house painter). It would be interesting to know what pushed him in the direction of religious fundamentalism and extremism, and violence.
Washington is convinced that the Pakistani Taliban are a key support for the Afghanistan Taliban next door, so anythingthat weakens them would be good for the US/NATO war effort.
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