September 5, 2008: Pakistan is
finally getting serious about taking down the local Taliban (the TTP, or
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan), and have hit them where it hurts the most, in the
pocketbook. The government has frozen all Taliban bank accounts, at least the
ones it knows about. This is a start. But much of the Taliban financing takes
place in the shadows. Part of this is because the tribes and warlord groups
belonging to the TTP have long been involved in criminal enterprises
(smuggling, extortion and other crimes not explicitly condemned by the Koran). Tracking
down these funds has always been difficult, because criminals have to be good
at hiding their cash. Then there is the ISI (the major Pakistani intelligence
agency), which has long supported the Taliban and other Islamic radical groups.
This assistance included help with moving money around. The ISI knows how to
hide money, and passed a lot of that knowledge onto the Taliban.
Because TTP groups have long been involved in criminal activities, they
have developed ties with major gangsters in the region. These guys want to
maintain some contacts with the Islamic radicals, just in case, and help out by
sharing their smuggling and money laundering contacts in the Persian Gulf. So
for the government to really hurt the TTP financially, they will have to go
after the criminal infrastructure the Taliban is allied with. That won't happen,
because the widespread corruption in Pakistan includes a lot of connections,
and cooperation, between government officials and major gangsters.
So "freezing bank accounts" may sound impressive, but means
less than other measures, like roadblocks on the major roads linking TTP
controlled areas with the outside world. This is something the government has been
using more of late, and it leads to many battles. The Taliban will constantly
attack the checkpoints, and truck drivers will attempt, sometimes successfully,
to bribe their way past the troops.