Almost as soon as the devastating floods struck in late July, they began filling a void left by the government’s disorganized initial response. Taiba’s charity wing, and those of several other Islamist and jihadi groups, were out there distributing tents, water, and medicine long before government teams began appearing. And the recently released WikiLeaks documents suggest that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence is giving not only shelter to the Afghan Taliban but also assisting and advising the insurgents.
The space in which militants operate may have shrunk in Swat and parts of South Waziristan, but, disturbingly, it has expanded in other areas inside and outside the tribal belt, including the Punjab, the country’s most populous and perhaps most politically important province. Once relatively free of militant violence, it is now a gathering place, where sectarian, anti-Indian, and jihadist groups have emerged seemingly stronger than ever, says Lahore political scientist Hasan Askari Rizvi. Suicide and ground assaults against the police, intelligence agencies, and civilians, including an ambush of the Sri Lankan cricket team in March 2009, are on the increase there. This past week suicide bombers killed more than 30 Shiites during a religious procession in Lahore. Taiba is believed to have ambitions far beyond India, says America’s top military officer, Adm. Mike Mullen, and is becoming “a significant regional and global threat.”