Saturday, October 03, 2009

Pakistani Citizen Militias respond to Taliban

If the police and army cannot protect you, then you just have to be your own protection. And that's when an AK becomes a very comforting piece of equipment.

Dr Naeem Khan was taking no chances. Walking through streets once filled with Taliban gunmen, the amiable country doctor looked ready for battle – an AK-47 in his hand, ammunition across his chest, and a chunky dagger tucked into his pocket.

He patted his weapon fondly. "This has become part of our everyday life now, like lunch and dinner," he said as he entered the small hospital where he works...

Six major militias have been established in recent weeks with the blessing of the local government and military. They are led by the khans – powerful local landlords and politicians, many of whom were forced to flee by the Taliban but who are back with a vengeance....

The lashkars [or Pakistani citizen militias] are part of a wider issue in Swat: how to ensure the militants do not rise again once the army pulls out. That leads to a more hotly contested question: how they flourished in the first place.

Afzal Khan Lala, an 82-year-old politician and tribal khan, refused to leave Swat in the fighting, even after being shot twice in an ambush. Suggestions the Taliban are an expression of wealth inequalities is "rubbish". "This talk of class warfare has been cooked up in Islamabad and Lahore," he said, blaming instead deep-rooted failures of politics and governance. The lashkars, which he insisted on terming "village defence committee", were a crude but necessary interim measure, he said. "The government's first duty is to protect the life and property of its citizens," he said, sitting on a rope bed as white-bearded elders streamed in to meet him. "Today it can't do either. So now the citizens have to protect themselves."|Swat Valley civilians turn to arms as uneasy peace takes hold - Guardian|

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