02/14/2014, 00.00
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Pakistani Taliban claim 500 women suicide bombers ready to kill ti impose Sharia on the country

by Jibran Khan
As a second round of talks between the TTP and the government gets underway today, the country continues to suffer from attacks and violence. Extremists are pushing for a progressively more "Islamised" state. Exasperated, more and more ordinary Pakistanis are favourable to a military operation.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - The Pakistani Taliban can count on more than 500 women suicide bombers, and more than 1,300 young students from Qur'anic schools, who are ready to blow themselves up in order to achieve the fundamentalists' goal, namely the introduction of Sharia, or Islamic law, in the country.

In recent weeks, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has carried out a series of suicide attacks against sensitive targets, including members of the police and security forces, to avenge the death of comrades and people associated with the extremist movement. According to its latest statements, the violence will continue until their demands "are met".

The government appears inclined to accommodate them. So far, it has shown that it still wants to continue talks to achieve a ceasefire, despite the growing desperation of a large part of the population and civil society, exasperated by the violence and opposed to the gradual "Islamisation" of the state.

The Taliban said that they would agree to a ceasefire if a certain number of non-negotiable preconditions were met, namely the introduction of Sharia law in the country; an Islamic educational system; the release of all terrorists and fighters, including the killers of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti; the handover of all the tribal areas and the withdrawal of the army, the end of the interest-based banking system, the end to support for the US war on terror; and the replacement of the democratic model with an Islamic regime.

As part of peace talks that got under way earlier this month, government officials and Taliban representatives held a second meeting today. However, the talks have already raised serious concerns and generate a fierce controversy in the country.

Many Pakistanis are in favour of the talks, and want to see a deal that would end the fighting, targeted attacks and bloody bombings. Many others however are pushing for a military operation, blaming the court system for its inability to prosecute felons.

Despite the military's decision to halt drone operations and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's determination to pursue the path of dialogue, the TTP continues to launch bloody attacks across the country. Just in the last little while, fundamentalist fighters have claimed responsibility for at least seven attacks, including the explosion of a police bus in Karachi that killed 12 officers.

Extremists have also targeted a tribal community of a few thousand people living in the Kalash Valley. For centuries, its members have lived in this remote area of ​​northwest Pakistan, on the border with Afghanistan. Of a peaceful nature, they are polytheist. And their leader strongly supports education in the region, peaceful coexistence and dialogue among residents. Yet, the Taliban warned them to "convert to Islam or be beheaded."

For the current Taliban leadership, today's Pakistan - which is based on a model and on ideals embodied by the historic speech the country's founder Ali Jinnah made to parliament in 1947 (one based on pluralism, religious freedom, a secular state, equal rights for Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, etc.) - is unpalatable.

Their first goal is precisely a radical change to the country's constitution and legal system, which they believe should be based on Sharia.

For many analysts and liberal-minded Pakistanis, such a vision will end up "having a psychologically devastating impact on Pakistan."

With their constant attacks, many against police and government facilities, TTP leaders have created the impression that they are more powerful than the state, and that they can strike anyone. And this is feeding a sense of insecurity and fuelling tensions, a situation that tends to have a crushing effect on innocent victims first.

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