Pakistan Steps Up Fight Against Militants, Pushes Increased Democratization

After years of looking the other way, the Pakistani government has been taking it to the Taliban in a significant way. Today, Taliban leaders have finally confirmed that the terrorist leader of Pakistani Taliban Baitullah Mehsud is dead as the result of joint US-Pakistan operations. This is a huge victory and deals a great blow to the militant organization, throwing the succession fight into deadly chaos.

Pakistani intelligence officials also said there were indications of violent infighting over who would succeed him, and reported briefly that one of his possible successors, Hakimullah Mehsud, had been killed.

But on Tuesday, Taliban leaders tried to dispel reports of Hakimullah Mehsud’s death or the impression of a rift in their leadership.

Two men claiming to be Hakimullah Mehsud and Waliur Rahman, another Taliban commander, contacted several media outlets to confirm Baitullah Mehsud’s death and put up a unified front. They also announced that Hakimullah Mehsud would take over leadership of the Pakistani Taliban, while Mr. Rahman would lead the Taliban in South Waziristan, the rugged tribal region that had been Baitullah Mehsud’s stronghold.

But Pakistani officials immediately cast doubt on the claims and about whether Hakimullah Mehsud was alive or dead. The Pakistani interior minister, Rehman Malik, contends that Hakimullah Mehsud is dead. Analysts said the public admission of Baitullah Mehsud’s death came after it became increasingly difficult for the Taliban to continue denying it.

The Washington Post reports today that the Pakistani military is not letting up, increasing attacks on militant forces in Southern Waziristan.

Pakistani helicopter gunships stepped up attacks on Taliban positions in the South Waziristan region on Wednesday, a day after militants confirmed that their leader was dead and announced his successor.

Security forces have made significant gains in an offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in the Swat valley, northwest of Islamabad, since late April, and have also been attacking Mehsud’s men in South Waziristan.

Helicopter gunships attacked militant hideouts in Madi Jam, an area 20 km (12 miles) east of South Waziristan’s main town of Wana, on Wednesday after Taliban attacked a military convoy, killing two soldiers, intelligence officials and residents said.

Residents in Wana saw armoured personnel carriers heading toward Madi Jam.

“Helicopters dropped leaflets asking people to leave the fighting area,” Mohammad Aslam, a resident of Madi Jam, told Reuters by telephone.

In addition to fighting militancy, the Pakistani government is working towards real reform to increase democratization in their own government.

Pakistan High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Wajid Shamsul Hasan has said PPP was committed to the implementation of Charter of Democracy in letter and spirit as the document was the best way to consolidate democracy in the country.

Pakistan is building momentum and acting as an example to other nations struggling with religious extremism and anti-democratic forces. Democratic nations like the US must continue supporting the Pakistani government, which has shown a willingness to make the hard decisions necessary to move towards playing a vital role in the international community.