Insurgents Join Forces in Pakistani Heartland

Country's fate tied to stability of Punjab, officials say
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Apr 14, 2009 9:39 AM CDT
A wounded man is taken in an ambulance following an explosion in a mosque in the Punjab city of Chakwal, south of Islamabad, Pakistan, April 5, 2009.    (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The Taliban is joining forces with local militant groups in the key province of Punjab, where more than half of Pakistanis live, the New York Times reports. Officials say the alliance is a major threat to national and regional stability, and was responsible for last month’s cricket-team attack, among others. Barring quick government action, Punjab’s edges could be the next insurgency hotbed, locals and analysts say.

Militants’ efforts in the area are in part retaliation for, and escape from, US drone attacks in tribal areas. “Connections that have always existed are becoming tighter and more public than they have in the past,” said an ex-CIA official. But “I don’t think a lot of people understand the gravity of the issue,” said a police official in Punjab. “If you want to destabilize Pakistan, you have to destabilize Punjab.”