Heliborne troops land in Swat’s Taliban heartland

May 12th, 2009 - 3:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 12 (IANS) Heliborne troops of the Pakistani Army Tuesday landed in the heartland of the Swat Taliban in what seemed to be a final push against the militants, the military said.
“Heliborne troops have landed in Peochar,” an army official was quoted as saying.

Peochar is the headquarters of Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah, the son-in-law of radical cleric Sufi Mohammad who had brokered a widely panned-peace deal with the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government.

Under the deal, Sharia laws were to be imposed in Swat and six other districts of the NWFP, which are collectively known as the Malakand division, in return for the Taliban laying down their arms.

The accord came into force in mid-April but the Taliban reneged on it and instead moved south from Swat to occupy Buner district that is just 100 km from Islamabad.

The Pakistani Army went into action April 26, initially in Lower Dir to the west of Swat and which is Sufi Mohammad’s home district and then in Buner and Swat.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Monday charged in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, that militants masquerading as the Taliban had a “foreign agenda” and said the military operation against them would be carried to its logical conclusion.

However, Gilani’s call for a united front against what he termed “enemies of the country’ received a tepid response with the opposition seeking more information and a prominent government ally and one-time Taliban sympathiser dissociating itself from the military operation in Malakand, Dawn reported Tuesday.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, whose Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) had previously been a supporter of the Afghan Taliban and is now a part of the federal coalition government, walked out of the house after delivering his speech, saying he had not been consulted before the military operation was launched.

Nisar Ali Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) complained that most MPs were as ignorant about the military operation as they were about the now failed Swat peace deal but his party was with the government in the action against the Taliban.

On his part, Gilani admitted that military action was not a permanent solution and that this would have to be supplemented by an “exit policy” that provided for, among others, strengthening the law enforcement agencies.

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