Pakistan’s government has abdicated to the Taliban in agreeing to impose Islamic law in the Swat valley and the country now poses a “mortal threat” to the world, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.
Surging violence across Pakistan and the spread of Taliban influence through its northwest are reviving concerns about the stability of the nuclear-armed country.
US President Barack Obama, who on March 27 unveiled a new strategy that seeks to crush al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Afghanistan and those operating from across the border in Pakistan, meets the presidents of both countries early next month.
The talks illustrate US anxiety that Afghanistan could again become a haven for al-Qaeda militants.
Speaking to US lawmakers, Clinton said the Pakistani government had to provide basic services to its people or risk seeing the Taliban and other extremists fill the vacuum.
Under pressure from conservatives, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari earlier this month signed a regulation imposing Islamic law in Swat.
Asked about the matter, Clinton bluntly replied: “I think that the Pakistani government is basically abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists.”
Speaking before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Clinton said that the situation in Pakistan “poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world.”
Swat was a major tourist spot until 2007, when militants infiltrated the valley from strongholds on the Afghan border to the west in support of a radical cleric.
After inconclusive military offensives and a failed peace agreement, Pakistani authorities accepted an Islamist demand for Shariah, or Islamic law, in February.
Pakistan yesterday sent paramilitary troops to a district virtually taken over by the Taliban. Around 100 paramilitary troops had been deployed in Buner district, not far from the capital Islamabad, police said.
“A platoon of the Frontier Corps has arrived in Buner to help police maintain security in the district,” said Arsala Khan, a deputy superintendent of police.
Within days of the government’s announcement of the imposition of Shariah law in Swat, 125km northwest of Islamabad, militants forced their way into nearby Buner, closer to the capital.
They said their aim was to push their version of Islam across the country.
Residents said the Taliban had occupied police stations in Buner and that gun-totting fighters were roaming market places urging people to support their efforts to impose Islamic law.
“If the Taliban continue their advances at the current pace they will soon be knocking at the doors of Islamabad,” Fazl-ur-Rehman, head of the Jamiat-e-ulema-e-Islam, the country’s largest Islamic party, told parliament on Wednesday.
Earlier yesterday militants set fire to seven trucks carrying fuel to Western forces in Afghanistan on the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province, police said.