Fear is in the air. People in Pakistan’s towns and cities are discussing how the government plans to take on the Taliban — who are an hour’s drive away from Islamabad.
In both homes and public places, Pakistanis are discussing and debating the Taliban onslaught and the possibility that its members would soon filter into the cities.
They are already present in some areas. In Karachi, the secular MQM party claims the Taliban have already arrived.
Several shops and houses in Karachi have received pamphlets asking them to adopt the Islamic way of life. In Pashto-dominated settlements in the city, families are stopping their girl children from going to school and their women from appearing alone in public. They say they have been advised to do this by the local clergy.
The situation in other cities like Lahore and Islamabad is somewhat better but there are fears it may change soon. The release of Moulvi Abdul Aziz, the firebrand leader of Islamabad's Lal Masjid, by the Supreme Court has rejuvenated the religious elements in the capital. For most Pakistanis, this development has only made themmore jittery.
What worries Pakistanis the most is the fact that the government seems to have been lulled into complacency. Both the President and the Prime Minister insist that things are under control.
However, the recent Taliban takeover of Buner, an area in the troubled North West Frontier Province, indicates that the Taliban are not sitting idle. The local populace of Buner had earlier resisted the Taliban.