Khyber: trouble despite operation
The Khyber Agency, crucial for the survival of Peshawar and for the maintenance of the NATO supply-line to Afghanistan, has been the most horribly convulsed area in Pakistan for many months. The disorder got so bad that a military operation was launched there earlier this year to dislodge the dreaded warlord Mangal Bagh. Smiling broadly, the thief turned Islamic reformer gave ground as the troops approached but is still around with his Lashkar-e-Islam militia making people’s lives hell in the federally administered tribal agency.
A report says that the two local tribes of Khyber, Shinwari and Afridi, feel humiliated that they are not protected by the government as they suffer at the hands of Mangal Bagh at the various checkposts that his Lashkar has set up to extort money. Mobile phones with musical ring tones or images are confiscated, a fine of Rs 500 is imposed on owners of cars playing music, and anyone not wearing the local cap has to pay a Rs 100 fine to Bagh’s vigilantes on the main Torkham highway. The government of General Musharraf allowed the warlord to become strong and today the Pakistan army can hardly restrain him, and the local people have become so disempowered that they cannot stand up to him. The vigilantes are using an abandoned Frontier Corps checkpost on the highway linking Pakistan with Afghanistan. The time to stop the warlord is now before his militia becomes an all-Pakistan reality. (Daily Times)