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Adezai Lashkar Holds Strong

A bazaar in Peshawar -- Taliban-free, for now
A bazaar in Peshawar -- Taliban-free, for now
There were reports yesterday of a bombing in Adezai, Pakistan, a village under near-constant siege from the Taliban. Over the last two years, this small village, about 16 kilometers south of Peshawar, close to the border of the tribal region of Dara Adamkhel, has fallen victim to ruthless Taliban violence -- having lost several local community leaders, clan leaders, and ordinary citizens.

But the Taliban has yet to kill the fighting spirit of the local people.

Since 2008, the Adezai lashkar (local militia) has -- without any outside help -- successfully denied Taliban advances, confining the Taliban to the Dara Adamkhel tribal area, keeping the militants from operating freely. The militia was formed in the wake of the almost complete collapse of government control of the area. Prior to 2008, while under Taliban control, villagers were executed in public and police officers refused to leave the police station for fear of meeting the same fate.

Adezai is crucial if the Taliban has plans to control the provincial capital of Peshawar. There is a general belief in the region that without the Adezai lashkar, the Taliban would already be in control of at least some of the southern parts of the city. So far, the local population has successfully maintained law and order in an area under constant threat of Taliban attack and where the proper Pakistani government is rarely seen. Several girls' schools -- once forcefully closed by the Taliban -- have reopened (although they are closely guarded by local militiamen).

To do all of this, the village people have had to endure great sacrifices, including the assassination in late 2009 of one of its leaders, Abdul Malik. Soon after, his son Noor took over the Adezai lashkar.

It is believed that Noor Malik was the target of yesterday's attack. On Monday, he told Radio Mashaal that no matter what happens, his village people will fight against the Taliban "to the last drop of their blood."

''Not a single penny is paid by the government to us in the past two and a half years," he said. "Our elders and brothers have been killed and our houses and businesses were destroyed. We are fighting with our own money and arms. Despite that, we shall continue to fight as long as we can. We would prefer death instead of surrender [before the Taliban].''

The local Pashtun population is resisting the Taliban in many other parts of the tribal regions and Khyber Pakhtunkhas, with Adezai serving as a symbol of resistance where a handful of young men are holding out against the Taliban.

-- Amanullah Ghilzai, Radio Mashaal