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Taliban Militants Hideout in Karachi, Pakistan

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Taliban Militants Hideout in Karachi, Pakistan


Taliban Militants Hideout in Karachi, Pakistan

Taliban Militants Hideout in Karachi, Pakistan

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Documentary producer Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy discusses how Karachi, Pakistan, has become a hot spot for militancy, and why the city appeals to the Taliban. She tells Steve Inskeep that "it only takes five minutes to shave off a beard and take off a black turban and you can melt right into the city."


The capture of the Talibans number two man took place in Karachi, which is one of Pakistans most chaotic and violent cities, maybe the most violent city. For a better view of Karachi, we called a resident of Karachi - journalist and filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

Ms. SHARMEEN OBAID-CHINOY (Journalist, Filmmaker): Mullah Baradar was arrested on the outskirts of the city of Karachi. These are areas where you can have a large slum mixed with concrete buildings. Anybody can go and rent out any of these rooms in these buildings or these apartments. Its the perfect place to hide.

INSKEEP: Of course, if you want to be a Taliban leader and be active and relevant, you'd need some kind of infrastructure. You'd need supporters and friends. Are those types of people available to a Taliban leader in Karachi?

Ms. OBAID-CHINOY: Look, Karachi is a sprawling city of 17 million people. This is where the Taliban do most of their fundraising. It is here that money from kidnapping, extortion, bank robberies - often channeled to the tribal areas to fund the Taliban. It is also here that the Taliban find refuge. They have their meetings.

It is also where they can seek medical help. And it only takes five minutes to shave off a beard and take off a black turban and you can melt right into the city. Because there is no military patrolling that takes place. There are no threats from drone attacks.

For Mullah Baradar, it was a perfect place to hide.

INSKEEP: How have people responded to news that this man was arrested in their midst in Karachi?

Ms. OBAID-CHINOY: Here in Pakistan the news has been very positive for a number of people. In the past, the Pakistani army has been hesitant to arrest any Afghan Taliban leaders. They have concentrated their efforts on the Pakistani Taliban. This is the first time that the Pakistani government has arrested such a high level Taliban Afghan leader.

And that shows, you know, the Pakistani army is willing to cooperate with intelligence sources within the country - the various intelligence agencies -but also with the Afghan intelligence and also with the U.S. intelligence agencies. It seems that there has been a shift in the way the Pakistanis are looking at this war.

INSKEEP: Are you saying that in the past, Pakistani officials drew a distinction suggesting that enemies of the United States were not automatically enemies of Pakistan?

Ms. OBAID-CHINOY: What I'm saying is that in the past, the Pakistani military and the Pakistani government has emphasized that their fight really is with the Pakistani Taliban, those who operate on Pakistani soil. So they have drawn a distinction - good Taliban and those Taliban that might be fighting off in Afghanistan.

Today, the United States is making those very same distinctions. There are the good Taliban, the ones that are open to negotiations, and the bad Taliban are the ones that the U.S. is now actively fighting against. And to a lot of people in Pakistan, it seems that the Pakistani distinction of good and bad Taliban is now being applied by the Americans.

INSKEEP: Hmm. So has Pakistan's government given any sense of why there would be a change in attitude?

Ms. OBAID-CHINOY: I think the underlying reasoning by the Pakistani government is that the United States cannot negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan and leave Pakistan out of the negotiations when it expects Pakistan to fight the very same people on the other side of the border.

INSKEEP: In the past, of course, Pakistan has found its uses for the Afghan Taliban. It's a way for Pakistan to have some influence inside Afghanistan, to be supporting them. Is Pakistan's government seeing the Afghan Taliban as less and less useful?

Ms. OBAID-CHINOY: I think the Afghan Taliban are seen as useful as long as (unintelligible) Pakistan's needs. And for the longest time the Pakistani government said that this war would probably be a war in which the United States leaves an unfinished job.

When President Obama announced that in 2011, that there would be a withdrawal of troops, the Pakistani government said, well, hang on a second. If this job is not done by 2011, would that mean that they would leave the Taliban in charge? Would it mean that the Taliban would then be brought to the negotiation table? And if that was to happen, Pakistan wants to be part of those talks.

It is very difficult for the Pakistani government to sell this walk to the Pakistani people when the United States is seen as negotiating with the Taliban.

INSKEEP: Thanks very much.

Ms. OBAID-CHINOY: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is a filmmaker in Karachi. Her films include "Pakistan's Taliban Generation," which was seen on PBS "Frontline."

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