Leadership: Radio Ruins Tribal Rule

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October 16, 2006: Northwest Pakistan, the home of several million Pushtuns (who are 40 percent of the Afghan population), is a violent place. A lot of the violence is about religion, but not all of it has anything to do with the Taliban or al Qaeda. For example, there is currently a war going on between Sunni and Shia tribes over who will control a religious shrine. So far, about two dozen people have died, including one policeman. The government arranged a council of tribal elders (or "jirga") to work out a compromise. The old timers did just that, but some of the young hotheads promptly broke the ceasefire and started shooting again. Some 18 tribes are involved in this dispute, which could escalate. The traditional tribal chiefs and elders have been losing control. Radio, television and the telephone have made it possible to stir up trouble more quickly, and send the young men out, under more radical leaders, to fight each other. The Pakistani government is hoping they can prevent large scale fighting for another month, after which Winter cold and snows will arrive, which will force all but the most enraged tribesmen to stay inside until the arrival of Spring. It's this sort of thing that makes the government so reluctant to get involved in tribal affairs. While less than ten percent of Pakistan's population is tribal, this is, by far, the most violent and easily enraged tenth.

 


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