Pakistan needs all the help it can get from militias

Thu Jun 23, 2011 8:24am GMT

By Michael Georgy

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Dilawar Khan often gets phone calls that would fill others with dread -- threats from the Pakistani Taliban to behead him. He gives his usual response: Not if he kills them first.

Khan, leader of a Pashtun tribal militia, joined forces with Pakistani security forces in 2008 to help them battle a rising tide of militancy.

He has lost 82 fighters and barely survived numerous assassination attempts but still stands up to militants bent on toppling the government.

But like other militia leaders, Khan feels abandoned by the state, which promised him funding and moral support, and he even speaks of switching sides.

"It feels like the government just threw us in the ocean to fend for ourselves," said Khan, a round-faced, stern-looking man wearing traditional baggy trousers and tunic.

Pakistan can't afford to lose friends like Khan.

It has come under enormous U.S. pressure step up its fight against groups like the Taliban and al Qaeda since Osama bin Laden was found and killed in Pakistan last month.

Islamabad may have to succumb to U.S. demands to open a risky new front against militants in North Waziristan to confront dangerous groups who cross the border to attack American troops in Afghanistan.   Continued...

<p>Members of the local Lashka (tribal militia-men), hold their weapons while dancing in a show-of-force in Khar, the main town in Bajaur Agency, located in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghanistan border March 2, 2010. REUTERS/Adrees Latif</p>
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