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Taliban Targets Freedom Of Expression

According to Pakistan’s Daily Times newspaper, the Taliban in the Mardan district of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province are threatening to bomb internet cafes and internet training centers. “The shopping plaza owner closed down my net cafe after receiving a threatening letter from unnamed local Taliban,” said Jehanzeb Khan, owner of an internet cafe in Katlang Bazaar near Mardan City.

Ali Ahmad is owner of a business that trains college students and others to use the internet. He says he and other internet trainers were ordered to close down or a face terrorist attack.

Since November 2007, dozens of video and CD shops in Mardan City and the surrounding area have been bombed. It is part of a strategy of terror known as “Talibanization,” by which the Taliban and other violent extremists seek to impose their brand of Islam on the people of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the region.

Farhana Ali is Associate International Policy Analyst at the RAND Corporation. She says Pakistanis want democracy instead:

“There was a poll that was conducted last September by World Public Opinion coordinated with the United States Institute of Peace, and in that poll, over sixty percent of Pakistanis reject Talibanization.”

Attacks by Taliban terrorists and others made Pakistan the most dangerous place in South Asia during 2007, according to the South Asia Free Media Association.

A report by the Committee to Protect Journalists said that among the journalists murdered by extremists in 2007 were news photographer Mehboob Khan and TV news cameraman Muhammad Arif. News cameraman Javed Khan was killed covering the shoot-out between extremists and government forces at the Red Mosque in Islamabad in July. Three other journalists were wounded in a suicide bomb attack on Pakistan’s Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao in April. Mazhar Abbas, general secretary of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, said that thirteen Pakistani journalists working in the tribal areas were forced to quit their profession because of threats from extremists.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher said, “the government of Pakistan is at war with a violent minority that is seeking to undermine a largely peaceful, law-abiding Pakistani citizenry deserving of the freedoms their country heralded at its inception.” Mr. Boucher said the U.S. stands with Pakistan in its struggle with violent extremists.