New fault lines are complicating the already daunting challenge of recovering from last October’s killer earthquake in the Himalayan foothills of northern Pakistan. As tens of thousands of survivors brace for the coming winter, relief groups are caught in a religious squeeze play that makes recovery and reconstruction even more difficult.
The massive quake seemed to do the most damage in communities where conservative Islamic culture holds tremendous power over people’s daily lives. In these places, women pass their days secluded from public life, and fundamentalist jihadi groups have found fertile ground for recruitment. Many of these groups are officially banned by the government because of their links to terrorism. But President Pervez Musharraf, who is already contending with armed insurgencies in several other areas, has chosen not to enforce antiterror laws in the quake zone.