05/06/2009, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Tens of thousands flee as the army faces the Taliban in Swat

At least 40 thousand people have fled the area where sporadic clashes take place. The pact between the government and Islamic extremists appears close to collapse. Today Zardari and Karzai meet Obama. The fight against the Taliban in Pakistan is essential for victory in Afghanistan.
Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – At least 40 thousand people are fleeing the Swat Valley as it becomes increasingly evident that the agreement between the Taliban and the government is over.  The pact had already been criticised by many in Pakistani society as Islamabad selling out its’ sovereignty to the Islamic extremists. The Pakistani Army accuses the Taliban of having broken the deal by seeking to infiltrate other areas of the nation.

Over the past few days the Taliban and army have been clashing in the main regional city Mingora, once a renowned destination for skiers which now lies devastated by two years of Taliban warfare.  Swat’s top official, Khushal Khan, confirms that the radical militants are infiltrating strategic points and mining the territory.  According to authorities 500 thousand people are seeking refuge.  The army is preparing 6 camps to shelter them.

The crisis has worsened on the eve of direct talks between the US President Barak Obama and the Pakistani and Afghan Presidents, Asif Ali Zardari and Hamid Karzai.

Obama is expected to urge Zardari to put a stop to Taliban who are using Pakistan as a base from which to launch their attacks in Afghanistan.  According to US presidential advisor Richard Holbroocke, without Pakistan’s help the United States cannot win the war in Kabul.

The pact between the government of the North West Frontier Province (Nwfp) and the Taliban foresaw the introduction of Sharia the area, as of February 16th last, in exchange for a ceasefire.  On April 13th last Zardari signed a decree validating the deal.  As the Taliban began summary executions for adultery, public lashings for ‘immoral behaviour’, the closure of girls schools and banned women from appearing in public, in public society particularly among women’s groups criticism of Zardari has grown.

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