Video: Taliban’s resurgence a threat

By Tom Brokaw
NBC News
updated 3/1/2006 8:57:22 PM ET 2006-03-02T01:57:22

Graphic video from Taliban sources demonstrates the power and the boldness of the Islamic fundamentalists in the frontier region. A local gang had been terrorizing residents on the border with Afghanistan in Waziristan. So the Taliban went after them, vigilante-style, with no interference from Pakistan military units in the area.

In scenes reminiscent of their rule in Afghanistan, the Taliban hunted down the gang leaders, beheaded some, and hung their bodies in the town square. It was a chilling reminder that the Taliban — the jihadists — are not just hiding out in a no man’s land.

In the north, in Pakistan’s earthquake zone, the Kashmir region is a landscape of tents as hundreds of thousands struggle to put their lives together again. The American military has turned over a surgical hospital to the Pakistani army. U.S. non-profits are providing supplies to remote villages, including health care, sanitation and water for shattered urban neighborhoods.

Most local residents NBC talked to were grateful to the Americans, but the jihadists are there as well. One camp is run by Al Suffa, a jihadist organization. The deeply devout Muslims who organized this camp say they did so for humanitarian reasons, not for political reasons. But inevitably, they are competing with the Western agencies and the Pakistani government for the hearts and minds of the people in this region.

On a recent trip to New York, Pervez Hoodbhoy, a prominent Pakistani physicist and political activist, sees that as an ominous sign. “Why should these bands be so prominent in the relief in the earthquake areas?” Hoodbhoy asks. “What kind of message does that send to the population in those areas?”

For his part, Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, insists the influence of the radicals is limited. “They were there in the relief phase; the relief phase is almost over,” Musharraf says. “Certainly their efforts were not comparable with that of the international community and the army did there.”

Musharraf is more troubled by the publication of the Danish cartoons and what happened away from the earthquake zone: deadly riots in two Pakistani cities in February. “They will gain ground if we do this kind of things certainly,” Musharraf says. “We are making them gain grounds. And we are putting the moderates also in support of the extremist.”

So this has been a winter of acute discontent in Pakistan, a country torn by the forces of nature and Islamic turmoil. It's yet another kind of battlefield in the war on terror.

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