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"He is a respected figure among us," a teacher from Bajaur explained to me of Maulawi Faqir Mohammed, Bajaur's principal Taliban commander. "People know him as a thorough gentleman. The Taliban never harmed the masses in Bajaur. Before the army operation, the Taliban had bought a degree of peace and stability there."

Sections of Fata's youth have also rallied around the militancy's flag. With little other employment opportunity, born to an era of conflict, familiar with bombing and drone strikes, raised by illiterate fathers who fought a jihad in Afghanistan, they are natural Taliban fodder. Bajaur's political agent, Shafirullah Wazir, described the Taliban training camp at Badon, one of several in the agency, as a centre "for every youth who wanted a radio, a motorbike and a gun".

Yet Pakistan's military and government seem manifestly opposed to any serious reform of the FCR. Some claim that the law is still an effective method of controlling the tribes, and that any form of development must first be preceded by an improvement in the security situation.

"The FCR is the best law," stated Brigadier Mahmoud Shah, former government secretary to Fata, at his Peshawar office. "It makes the tribe responsible for maintaining law and order, not individuals. All punishments are awarded against the tribe. You can blockade them, deny them passports or ID cards. It is better to have a bad law than no law. How can you develop places you cannot even go to? It is like giving cake to a starving man."

Others suggest that there is a more sinister agenda afoot, and claim that Fata has been deliberately crippled so as to preserve it as a specimen jar of militancy for the very sake of attracting US military funding.

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Gary O
February 12th, 2009
5:02 PM
Taliban and islamist extremists are the golden geese for Pakistan that regularly lays golden eggs in the form of billions of dollars in "aid", free military hardware, intelligence training and much more from Western countries, not to mention the almost universal praise heaped upon its politicians by our governments thereby giving boost to their self importance and ego. And what happens if you kill the goose that lays the golden egg?

February 7th, 2009
9:02 PM
"What can the West do about it?" errm mind its business- maybe just for once.

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