Bombs damaged two music shops in a bazaar in Bannu in north-western Pakistan on 11 September 2006. Explosions damaging music shops are increasingly shaking up the area.
For almost five years, Pakistani soldiers and paramilitary forces have battled local tribesmen, many believed allied to the Taliban from Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network, in the fiercely independent mountain region of north-western Pakistan where central government powers are not applied.
Local militant groups, whom the local police seem unable to identify, are targeting music stores and Internet cafes in several cities of this mountain area, because according to the Taliban who follow an extreme Deobandi strain of Islam, music is deemed “un-Islamic” and offensive to God, and the internet as well as videos are regarded vestiges of Western obscenity.
In the past months, a growing number of music and video shops in the area have been damaged, and everytime with the exact same pattern: Firstly, pamphlets are distributed to warn the music shop owners that they should close down their shops, and then a few days later, bomb blasts in the darkness of the night.
Some recent examples:
Bannu in September
A pre-dawn bomb attack occurred on 11 September 2006 in Bannu, a city near the border to Afghanistan in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, on the edge of the lawless northern tribal region. Local police officer Salim Khan said to Dera Ismail Khan who works for the news agency Associated Press that he suspects Islamic militants to be behind this bomb attack because over the last several months they have been distributing pamphlets warning music shops to close down.
Bannu in April
On 12 April 2006, a similar bomb blast in Bannu reportedly destroyed 10 music shops. This explosion also did not cause any casualties because it occurred at about 1 AM at night.
On 2 September 2006, in Darra Adam Khel, a conservative region 50 kilometres southwest of Peshawar, a homemade bomb exploded outside a video shop, damaging several shops and slightly injuring one person. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.
On 21 January 2006, suspected Islamic militants planted explosive material near a music shop in the center of the bazaar in Tanak district of North-West Frontier Province. The bomb blast damaged several music and video shops and two internet cafes.
Islamic militants are reported to have attacked several music shops in the neighboring North and South Waziristan regions after ordering them to close. Waziristan is known as the “Wild West of Pakistan” – a land of high, difficult mountains inhabited by a million fiercely independent Pashtun tribesmen with strong ties across the border in Afghanistan. It is considered the main base for al-Qaida-backed militants and a stronghold of religious extremists.
On 5 May 2006, a bomb exploded in the town bazaar of Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan, few kilometres from Pakistan’s border to Afghanistan. According to a report from Associated Press, the bomb explosion before dawn at the Garai Bazaar smashed windows, doors and goods in several shops, many of which sold tv sets, audio and video cassettes, and rented out music and movie CDs. No one was hurt, and no one claimed responsibility, but five days earlier, pamphlets in the name of “al-Qaida and Taliban groups” had been circulated in the town, demanding all video rental shops and stores selling television sets, audio and video cassette players to close or risk attack. The pamphlets, in Pakistan’s main Urdu language, also warned hotel owners against having tv’s in rooms or showing movies to their guests.
Pro-Taliban militants move southwards
Islamic Fundamentalism has played a strong role in Waziristan since the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan in the late 1970’s, but the first signs of a new Taliban-like rule in Waziristan started to emerge in January 2006. The Islamist militants are mostly said to be students of local madrassas (Islamic schools). The recent explosions in Bannu are seen as a sign that extremist tendencies are spreading southwards from the lawless northern tribal region bordering Afghanistan.
The Talibanisation of Waziristan has now spilt over into parts of the North-West Frontier Province, where the extremists have formed militias to enforce their version of Islam and Islamic justice akin to the toppled hard-line regime in Afghanistan: Barbers are warned not to shave beards, local citizens are prohibited from playing music, even at weddings, or watching tv. Women are barred from leaving their homes on their own. Defiance is punishable by heavy fines
The pro-Taliban militants have become increasingly powerful in recent years. In the North-West Frontier Province, the democratically elected local government, the Provincial Assembly, is controlled by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a coalition of six right-wing, religious and pro-Taliban parties. When they came to power in 2002, they announced that they would ban the playing of music and videos in public transport vehicles. The MMA works for the total Islamisation of Pakistan under sharia law.
Meanwhile, Pakistani troops continue their withdrawal from the border region after a failed three-year campaign against the Islamic militants. The Pakistani military lost 700 soldiers, and several hundred civilians and militants were also killed, but the operation produced few results.
Ndtv.com – 12 September 2006:
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