May 11th, 2009
10:45 AM ET

In Pakistan – where's the evidence?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/05/09/pakistan.swat.taliban.fighting/art.pakistanfight.jpg caption="Pakistan has launched a massive military operation against the Taliban in the Swat Valley. "]

Samson Desta
CNN Bureau Chief

The Pakistani government says it has launched a major military campaign against the Taliban, killing 700 militants since it launched the campaign last week.

One key question now is whether the government and military are serious enough and have the ability to oust the militants that have taken over much of this country, breached a peace agreement and pushed within 60 miles of the capital.

And with estimates that almost 400,000 Pakistanis are fleeing the homes to avoid being caught in the fighting, another key question is whether the government can resolve the unfolding humanitarian crisis. It has promised to provide aid, but will it and how fast?

This is "a decisive moment," the prime minister himself said.

The government and military, long focused on the constant potential for conventional war with Indian, have been accused of being slow to respond to the insurgent threat from the Taliban.

If they are now serious about beating the Taliban, however, they could win this battle. The Taliban have violently imposed Sharia law in the Swat valley northwest of the capital city Islamabad, brutally and publicly killing people for perceived but unproven crimes. It has not won the loyalty of the people.

Until now, most Pakistanis have felt that this fight isn't theirs: Why should they fight the Taliban? That's America's fight. But we've been speaking with people at the bazaar here in Islamabad, and many told us enough is enough, we need to fight the Taliban and support the army.

We've also gone to the other side, to the famous "Red Mosque," where we fond mostly Pashtuns still largely supportive of the Taliban. And we saw an anti-American protest, where people expressed anger over the army's current attacks on the Taliban.

So public support is divided right now - another reason this is a key moment for the government.

Meantime, the collateral damage is piling up, the human toll is extreme. We've seen people being treated for wounds at the hospital, including children - one boy had to have his fingers amputated.

And we've seen some of the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing their homes, becoming refugees within their own country, streaming over Pakistan's harsh terrain.

But one thing we have not seen - the army's attacks. Nor has other media - the army has not permitted journalists along.

And that has raised yet another key questions about the government's claims that it is waging a major, successful operation, killing 200 militants on Sunday and 140 last Thursday: is this for real?

No one had seen proof that the army had killed, injured, or detained a single Taliban or militant. The army has released video of helicopters in the air and tanks and artillery firing, but it looks generic.

The military on Friday finally released stills of alleged Taliban detainees, but they were just a couple of photos. They definitely show detainees, but it's hard to tell who they are or when or where they were captured.

And so, while the humanitarian crisis grows, clear evidence of whether the government is forcing out the Taliban is still to come.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Pakistan • Taliban
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. ronvan

    The sad thing here is that we, the U.S. & other countries fail to understand these countries history, religion, etc. etc.. We cannot force them to change, it has to happen from their own people.

    May 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  2. Victoria Snyder

    My heart breaks for the orphans of Swat Valley. Anderson please tell us if/how we can start adoption procedures. There are many Americans who would love to open their hearts and homes to these special children!

    May 11, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  3. earle,florida

    What evidence does Pakistan have to povide? It's a faction of the countries diversity,and that goes for Afghanistan? Who are we to decide how countries treat cross-sections of their populations culture. Just think if their voice could be heard here questioning how we treat minorities,and the underprivileged in GOD's promise land! A handful of fanatics have displaced a million unfortunate woman,children,and feeble individuals to refugee camps of unimaginable squalid living standards,to insure our safety from paranoia. What gives this country (America) the right of propping-up,"our chosen leaders" in a foreign lands? Nuclear weapons we help make,and provide for,along with enabling India to get all the Nuclear material they want from the US, so why shouldn't Pakistan go to whom will help facilitate ,for reasons I'd rather not elaborate (who's playing who). We have Iran on our paranoia list Syria,Russia,China,N.Korea,Pakistan,just to name a few! This should tell us something? We will be broken-financially supporting all these standing armies in five years with China waiting in the wings.I remember as if it were yesterday,replacing Russia's (Premier) Kruschev famous statement (with China's stealthy military build-up of incredible proportion) heard around the world in the early 60's,as he used his shoe to bang on the world's podium saying "We will sell you the rope to (China?) hang yourself "! Think deeply,and think thoughtfully about our countries current path,...?PS. History had Russia on Germany's side until they saw how fast the German's finished-up the French (quiz;history puzzle) in weeks during WWll,and realized their end-game of deception was fatally flawed!

    May 11, 2009 at 12:36 pm |
  4. fariha saqib

    I am a Pakistani from Islamabad and when I see so many people leaving their homes and belongings in fear of the fighting going on in Swat and when I talk to friends and acquintances who are from those areas, their accounts are proof enough for me that the military operation is taking place in Swat.
    We are hearing first-person accounts of people from the Malkand division about the brutal fighting in those areas.
    As to what you have to say about the differet opinions still existing within the society about the military offensive, then it is true that there are different opinions and they will continue to exist as long as the fighting continues. However, this is the first time that I've seen some sort of consesus within the society about the military action.And interestingly a lot of religious people are the ones completely against Taliban and for the military offensive.But whose war it initailly was will always be a question under debate in most circles of society.

    May 11, 2009 at 10:41 am |
  5. Terry, TX

    What diplomacy and negotiations didn't work with the Taliban...not even the moderate ones....tell the UN to send out a letter of complaint even if Russia and China don't sign it...send NATO to the coast...the new wildlife capture and release program should make them happy...aren't they happy with the money the president is going to give them. Not going to look good if the Taliban gets a hold of 60 nuclear weapons. Well we could always blame Bush and Cheney....oh wait...that doesn't work anymore and people are tired of hearing it. What to do...what to do?

    May 11, 2009 at 10:32 am |
  6. LV

    I think the pakistani are ready to take back the country but want to make sure they have a successful mision so they won't downcast the people's heart, that probably why they didn't want media.This is a huge step for them.

    May 11, 2009 at 10:01 am |