Pakistani Province Plans to Arm Villagers to Fight Taliban

As Peace Deal With Militants Moves Forward, Why Is NWFP Suddenly Arming Militias?

Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) seems to have solved most of its major militancy problems when the local Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chapter affirmed that it would agree to a permanent ceasefire based on last week’s promise to implement aspects of Islamic law across Malakand. Yet with the deal in place the province is now planning to pump rifles into village militias across the area.

Officials say that the NWFP plans to provide 30,000 rifles to villagers to be used against “terrorists and troublemakers.” NWFP Chief Minister Hoti said that the rifles had been seized from “anti-state elements” across the region and the handouts would be coordinated with local police.

The timing of the move is somewhat curious, coming as peace seems to be breaking out across much of the NWFP. Yet the move is being compared to the US-backed Sunni militias in Iraq, and may be a transparent attempt to curry favor with an American government critical of the peace deal. At the same time, arming villagers and telling them to kill “troublemakers” may not be the panacea the government has imagined, and may add more fuel to a powderkeg that seemed to have finally burned itself out.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.