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In Pakistan, army adamant on fighting off the ‘other Taliban’

In the past few years, Pakistan’s Swat valley has been occupied by Islamic insurgents, undergone a bruising counter-offensive by the army and then flooded by waters that washed away acres of fruit orchards and steeply terraced fields. In October last year, the valley which lies about 250 km (155 miles) north of the capital Islamabad was again in the global spotlight when Islamic gunmen shot schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai.

Now, as villagers try to piece together shattered lives, the military is coming under pressure to talk peace with the Taliban, a ruthless Pakistani offshoot of the Islamic radical movement of the same name in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Civilian Pakistani leaders elected in May want to open a dialogue with the homegrown militants set on overthrowing the nuclear-armed state. They say the local people are fed up with the violence and that any talks will be legitimised by US efforts to promote peace with the Afghan Taliban.
But the powerful military, which has spent years chasing the Pakistan Taliban into ever-more remote hideouts, is in no mood to negotiate with militants who have killed thousands of soldiers and who they say cannot be trusted. Some villagers back that stand.

‘(The Taliban) doesn’t accept the government’s writ, they are not faithful to the constitution, how can a political party talk to them?’ said Abdul Rehman, an elder in the village of Kalam, a former tourist hotspot high in the Swat valley and ringed by snow-capped peaks of the Hindu Khush. The village is famous for repelling Taliban attacks. ‘We forced them away, first on our own, then with the help of the army,’ Rehman told Reuters during a visit organised by a U.N. organisation funding flood relief work in his village, which is set among pine forests and walnut orchards.

The debate over whether to open peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban has taken centrestage in the country as US troops withdraw from Afghanistan after a 12-year war against the Afghan Taliban.
Pakistan’s military leaders are at pains to distinguish between the Afghan Taliban, to which Pakistan maintains ties and which they argue can be seen as fighting against occupation, and its local imitators who they see as domestic terrorists.
Agencies

Agencies

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