Pakistan's tribal political ban ends

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The Pakistani government has lifted a ban on political activities in its tribal areas along the Afghan border, including a ban on membership in political parties that dates to colonial times.

President Asif Ali Zardari announced the changes last week in hope that tribesmen would begin a political opposition to Taliban and al Qaeda sympathizers, who hold sway in mosques.

Previously, about 4 million residents of seven Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) could not belong to a political party or run for public office on any political party's ticket, and politicians from elsewhere in the country could not hold rallies, make speeches, register voters or engage in any other political activity...

... This, he said, enabled the Taliban to increase its influence on Pakistan's side of the border, especially after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S.

Candidates backed by the Taliban won all 12 National Assembly seats from FATA in 2002 and most of the seats in 2007 elections, Mr. Wazir said.

"The problem is that [members of parliament] from FATA have become virtual spokesmen of Taliban and advocates of their agenda," said Ijaz Khattak, another Peshawar-based analyst.

Pakistani religious parties formed an alliance back in 2001, first called the Afghan Defense Council and later Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, to support the Afghan Taliban regime and resist the U.S.-led coalition's military operations in Afghanistan...

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