Lahore, Oct 1 : Sensing that the local tribesmen in NWFP could prove more meaningful in combating the Taliban, the Pakistani Army and the Frontier Province government are reportedly extending all kind of help, moral as well as financial, to them to fight against the militants.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the Pakistan Army is backing tribal militias rising to battle pro-Taliban groups in the hope that this will turn the tide in the restive northwest of the country.
"The tribal militias could provide a counterweight. The tribesmen have risen against the militants. It could be a turning point in our fight against militancy. The province is providing them financial as well as moral support," the paper quoted NWFP Governor Owais Ghani as saying.
Taliban groups in areas like Bajaur along the Pak-Afghan border were trying to carve out enclaves along the border. To fight them, the government has deployed more than 8000 troops in the Bajaur region, the report said and added: "But a steady supply of Islamist guerillas is pouring in from Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the fighting shows little sign of abating."
According to the report, military commanders believe that "the struggle for control of the tribal region is crucial to containing the spread" of Taliban and Al Qaeda to other parts of NWFP.
"The threat of Bajaur radiates in all directions and affects the entire region," Frontier Corps Inspector General Maj Gen Tariq Khan was quoted as saying.
The paper said some analysts worry that "the emergence of the militias could escalate fighting in the border region into a mini-civil war" between the pro-Taliban people and those who oppose them.
Militias had been formed in Kurram and Khyber agencies as well as Dir, the paper said and added: "Initially, the lashkars, as the militias are known, were organised as indigenous resistance groups without help from local government administrations, but now both the military and the provincial government support them."