06/18/2008, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Pakistan, no government response to Taliban offensive

While the NATO attack rages in southern Afghanistan, president Musharraf and the interior ministry meet to study a defensive strategy and combat the apparent powerlessness of the government. In the meantime, the Taliban are threatening women who study, and closing non-Islamic shops.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - The increase of the Taliban's military power, the growing fear of the Pakistani population, forced to suffer the impositions of the fundamentalists, and the apparent powerlessness of the government to end the indiscriminate attacks in the northern part of the country.  These are the questions addressed a few hours ago by the government of Islamabad, during a closed door meeting between president Musharraf and the officials of the interior ministry.  The conversation ended with no practical results, and a representative of the Afghan government has been sent to Pakistan to discuss the situation.

In fact, while the NATO offensive rages against Taliban positions in southern Afghanistan (very close to the Pakistani border), there is no sign of a letup in the tension between Kabul and Islamabad, caught in a tangle of mutual accusations over the question of Islamic fundamentalism in the two countries.  The NATO intervention was made necessary after the mass escape of Islamic militants from the Afghan prison in Kandahar, during a genuine military assault, unsettling the international contingent in the country.

According to Afghan president  Karzai, the government headed by the Muslim League and by the People's Party is giving refuge to the Islamic militants; for Pakistan, it is the fault of the corrupt Afghan government if the borders are systematically breached to let through weapons and militants.  In any case, the enormous concession signed by the government headed by Zardari and Sharif (the Pakistani political leaders at the head of the two governing parties) must not be forgotten, by which they granted to the Taliban a portion of the northern territory in exchange for an end to the suicide attacks.

In the meantime, the Pakistani population is asking the government for greater security, and is alleging "high-level friendships" with the Qur'anic scholars who today threatened the women of Kohat (a town a few kilometres from the capital) with "grave repercussions if they refuse to wear the headscarf and attend non-Islamic schools".  Moreover, a band of armed men has forced the closure of barber shops and music stores in the northern part of the country, now officially in the hands of the Muslim militias.

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