Monday, April 13, 2009

Deal with Taliban strains U.S.-Pakistan alliance

The future of Pakistan's alliance with the United States and other Western nations appeared in doubt Monday as Taliban militants took over more territory in the world's only nuclear-armed Islamic country. Militants are now imposing Islamic law -- sharia -- in Buner, a mountain valley just 60 miles from Islamabad, according to the Reuters international news service, less than two months after the government conceded the Swat Valley to the Taliban. "They are everywhere," Arsala Khan, a deputy superintendent of police, told Reuters by telephone. "They are visiting mosques, they are visiting bazaars, asking people to help them in enforcing sharia. Buner is fast turning into Swat." Swat was a main tourist destination until 2007, when militants began infiltrating the region from their strongholds on the border with Afghanistan. The government of President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of slain former leader Benazir Bhutto, negotiated a settlement with the Taliban in February to allow the imposition of sharia in an effort to temper rising violenc in the region. At the time, Western nations vehemently objected to the agreement, warning Zardari that such deals protected Taliban and al-Qaida militants and encouraged even more violence -- precisely what happened.

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