LAHORE, Pakistan, April 14 (UPI) -- The Pakistani province of Punjab has become the scene of a growing alliance between Taliban insurgents and local Islamic militant groups, observers say.
The alliance poses a risk to the stability of the country, since Punjab is home to more than half of Pakistan's population, U.S officials maintain. Deadly assaults against the Sri Lankan cricket team in the provincial capital of Lahore in March and last year's bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad are examples of partnerships between Taliban and Punjabi militants, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
"I don't think a lot of people understand the gravity of the issue," an unnamed senior police official in Punjab told the Times. "If you want to destabilize Pakistan, you have to destabilize Punjab."
Residents of Dera Ghazi Khan, which is a gateway both to Taliban-controlled areas and the heart of Punjab, say militants there have gained considerable strength. The newspaper said that least five towns in southern and western Punjab, including the hub of Multan, have seen "offensive" businesses such as Internet cafes receive threats from Islamic militants.