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In western Pakistan’s embattled Swat Valley, the Taliban are thought to have exploited class rifts between landless peasants and wealthy landlords.

The Taliban are already working on projecting this strategy into the rich plains of Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province where feudalism is more entrenched.

But Pakistani academic Tariq Rahman suggests that such explanations for Taliban advances in his country are too simplistic:

The Taliban ruled in Afghanistan and they have been exercising their influence in parts of Pakistan. All accounts from these areas -- whether in the form of memoirs from Afghanistan or stories from Pakistan -- suggest that certain minor disputes revolving around property are settled quickly. However, whether they are settled justly is not clear at all. Moreover, if a powerful Talib is involved in a dispute he gets away with murder -- quite literally. There is simply no appeal against the Taliban, even against a completely arbitrary or whimsical judgment.

Secondly, they introduce new rules forbidding music, painting, sculpting, singing, dancing, theatre etc. Therefore, the possibility of getting on the wrong side of the powerful increases for all inhabitants. Indeed, it is not peace and security that beckon but the fear of punishment that looms large. There is no concept of a peaceful life as a free citizen in areas dominated by the Taliban.

It is, however, true that illiteracy, lack of governance, and most critically a lack of economic opportunities helps the Taliban.

And with the lack of security, establishing industry or reviving agriculture in western Pakistan’s troubled regions is going to be more challenging than ever.

-- Abubakar Siddique

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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