US derides Pak cease-fire order on border ahead of RamadanSeptember 1st, 2008 - 5:53 pm ICT by ANI
Peshawar, Sept.1 (ANI): The Bush administration has criticized the Pakistan military brass for declaring a cease-fire in the border areas near Afghanistan ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan.
It accuses Islamabad of not pushing hard enough against Taliban militants in the countrys tribal areas.
Pakistan on the other hand says that it has declared the cease-fire after conducting weeks of air assaults in Bajaur in which over 400 Taliban casualties were reported.
The Pakistan Government declared a cease-fire in the area on Saturday for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins here on Wednesday.
The deal was arranged after the electorally important Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, a religious party, and legislators from the tribal areas said they would support Zardari for president in return for an end to the air strikes, reports the New York Times.
The declaration of the cease-fire has prompted concerns that whatever gains had been made against militants in the region would be squandered.
The paper quoted Khalid Aziz, a former chief secretary of the North-West Frontier Province, as saying that the Taliban would use the opportunity to regroup.
It was unclear whether the cease-fire would extend beyond Ramadan, politicians from the tribal areas said.
Whether or not the militarys Bajaur operation was intended specifically to assist the United States, the air strikes dovetailed with Washingtons interests.
The Bush administration has said that the ability of Al Qaeda and Taliban to operate there and in other areas of the tribal belt gives them license to plot attacks against the United States.
The militants, operating with impunity from havens like Bajaur, a 250-square-mile pocket of mountains and narrow valleys on the northern edge of the tribal areas, have struck American and NATO forces in Afghanistan with mounting ferocity.
As a result of the air campaign, more than 200,000 civilians have fled their homes, according to the World Health Organization and Unicef, which are providing assistance in the area.
The Pakistani military has met fierce resistance from the militants in Bajaur. In the fighting to recapture Loe Sam, 29 soldiers were killed, Colonel Rasul said.
Meanwhile, many Pakistanis in the North-West Frontier Province and the tribal belt said that they were pleased that the government was taking firm action against the Taliban, who are now threatening the capital of the province, Peshawar, and have taken over some of the towns around it.
But the air strikes were criticized for being indiscriminate. The assault had not killed any known leaders of the Taliban in Bajaur, said Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, a former interior minister, whose constituency is close to Bajaur.
Displaced civilians blamed the government for the hardships in the camps and for the destruction of their homes.
As news of the government cease-fire spread over the weekend, there were indications that many of the displaced in the camps would return home. But some said they were worried about the absence of government ground forces.(ANI)