News

    Pakistani Public Opinion Appears to Turn Against Taliban

    Taliban militants in Pakistan continue their attacks despite claims by experts and officials that public opinion is turning against the militant organization. At the same time, the ongoing Army offensive against the Taliban in the Swat valley has displaced more than two million people, many who now live in squalid camps. Experts in Washington are urging Pakistan to be proactive in helping the refugees before their frustration turns into anger against the government.

    The chilling image was played repeatedly on TV - a man with a long beard flogging a woman.  The two minute video was purportedly shot in Swat valley when the Taliban controlled the territory.  Although its authenticity has been challenged, to the Pakistani public it underscored the group's extreme form of Islam.

    In the two months since - there have been a series of bombings. Recently, thousands mourned the death of a prominent critic of the Taliban. The Muslim cleric was killed in a suicide bombing on his mosque.

    Many officials and experts see the bombings and the flogging video as a tipping point.  While no scientific polls have been released, there have been repeated examples of public opinion turning against the Taliban.

    "You now have clerics standing up and saying this is against the Koran," Harlan Ullman said. Ullman is a South Asia expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington. "I would hope the Pakistani government will be able to say that the Taliban and extremists are not Muslims and they are not Pakistanis.  Delegitimize them.  Get the word out. Now is the time to mobilize the public."

    Shuja Nawaz, also of the Atlantic Council, says the challenge to the Taliban should come from across the political spectrum. "...to be able to point out that the Islam they talk about is a convoluted view, it is not the Islam as the people of Pakistan know it or want it to be," Nawaz said.

    Others say the Pakistani public appears still deeply conflicted over how its government is dealing with threats from the Taliban.  Since military action began in Swat valley the number displaced by fighting has grown to 2.5 million.  Most live in camps.

    Nawaz says the government should seize the moment and quickly provide relief and rebuild Swat communities."If it [the government] is not proactive this sentiment can turn against the government and create a further problem and that is a challenge," Nawaz states.

    After the Pakistani earthquake in 2005, U.S. military personnel delivered relief supplies to victims.  

    While the United States says it has provided nearly $165 million in assistance to people affected by the fighting, the Pakistani government has limited the reach of U.S. soldiers.

    "No U.S. military personnel have been allowed to bring either supplies or surgical hospital or other assets that the U.S. military is well equipped to deliver to the people who need it," Jonah Blank said. Blank is an advisor to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, says Pakistan's approach is wrong.
     
    Obama administration officials propose tripling the size of non military assistance for Pakistan.

    But Blank says in building a long term relationship, the U.S. should also listen to Pakistan's concerns. "Whether it is about [Iraqi prison] Abu Ghraib, about Gitmo [the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay] or about the predator program [U.S. drone aircraft] or about U.S. policies in other parts of the world, we cannot simply dismiss these concerns as irrelevant to the core discussion," Blank states.

    Experts say with the U.S. providing assistance at a time when opinion has turned against the Taliban, America's image among Pakistanis will improve as it did after the timely relief to earthquake victims.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora