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Taliban Not Lying Low In Waziristan

A Pakistani soldier takes up position in Tora Warai, a town in Kurram Agency, earlier this month. Tribal elders were told it was safe to return to the area and that the government was in control.
Three months ago, the Mehsud and Wazir tribes of South Waziristan were convinced (or, forced, depending on who one asks) by Pakistani authorities and international agencies to return to their villages. The villagers had been evacuated so security forces could "clear and hold" the area after defeating the Taliban there.

In January, elders from both tribes expressed their concerns in a series of jirgas with the authorities. They explained that it would be impossible for them to return to their normal lives and traditions because of the lingering threat from extremists. In the end, the authorities assured the elders that the area is now under the writ of Pakistan's government.

On July 26, these assurances were proven false when an armed group of Taliban fighters entered the bazaar in Wana calling for all pieces of "thin fabric" to be brought out to be burned. The men burned what witnesses said were "thousands of meters" of fabric that they claimed did not fully cover the women wearing clothes made from it -- deeming such clothing as obscene.

This follows a trend in Pakistan's tribal areas of Taliban militants trying to impose their will on the people. In May, Taliban militants in the Kurram Agency, adjacent to South Waziristan, issued a leaflet ordering the residents to follow its "code of conduct or face the consequences."

The militants asked the men in Lower Kurram Valley to grow beards and the women to remain veiled when venturing outside their homes. The women were instructed to stay at home and never leave unless accompanied by immediate family members.

The Taliban further told the locals that arranging music for wedding ceremonies was strictly forbidden in Islam, and warned the people to avoid all such practices. The militants also asked the locals to pay at least 5,000 rupees ($70) to the imam in every mosque in the area.

The Taliban directed the individuals working with nongovernmental organizations to quit their jobs and clarify their positions in Taliban courts.

Islamic extremists continue to show their presence and let the world know they still exist. This time the innocent bystanders who normally serve as the militants' targets were spared for pieces of cloth. But the wider message is clear. The Taliban has yet to be defeated in Pakistan.

-- Majeed Babar