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Taliban Ultimatum: Mehsud Demands NWFP Gov't Resign Or 'Face Consequences'

We and others have been working to explain that the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance is an insurgency within Pakistan with eyes on the whole of Pakistan, beyond the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), usually reported to the American public as the Pak-Afghan border regions. Well, the ever patient creep east toward Islamabad may be picking up speed and accompanying inertia as Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud has issued an ultimatum to the government of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), which is situated directly between the Taliban and al-Qaeda’s FATA lairs and Islamabad.

As Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reports, Mehsud has given the NWFP government 5 days to resign and essentially surrender the territory or “face the consequences.”

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud has asked the NWFP government to either resign within five days or “prepare itself to face the consequences”.

“The NWFP government is not sincere about restoring peace, rather it is responsible for lawlessness in the tribal areas, Hangu and Swat,” TTP spokesman Maulvi Umar quoted Baitullah as saying on Thursday.

The TTP spokesman told Dawn that the Taliban reserved the right to take action against the provincial government if it did not resign in five days. He said the NWFP government was a powerless entity and Taliban would not hold talks with a weak government.

Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said people had given the government a mandate for five years.

“This is just nonsense and we know from where they are getting dictation,” he said, adding that the statement of Baitullah Mehsud was regrettable.

He said the government would not step down, nor would it follow the dictates of a person or group.

Generally the Taliban says what it means and means what it says, so discounting this as bold bravado is a mistake.

The terrorists’ creep toward Islamabad (and the whole of Pakistan) continues apace, and next week looks to bring with it some defining events.

The ambitions on Islamabad have been executed with extreme patience, as the Taliban and al-Qaeda have been very careful to secure tangible and consistent gains toward their ultimate Pakistani ambitions without doing so in a manner and velocity that would tip Pakistan into removing “reluctant” from the characterization of Pakistan as being in reluctant cooperation with the United States against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. They have, thus far, succeeded in ensuring the maintenance of Pakistani reluctance.

Most Americans are relatively uninformed on this very critical issue that is at the very heart of the War on Terror. We will do our level best to explain the dynamics, risks, and possible outcomes in the coming week. One thing’s for certain: It’s time to pay attention.