Pakistan must defeat Taliban, says Zardari; Rs.8 bn for refugee aid (Night Lead)

May 21st, 2009 - 12:16 am ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 20 (IANS) Pakistan must win the war against the Taliban in the country’s restive northwest, President Asif Ali Zardari declared Wednesday, as the military announced it had captured a key militant stronghold and the government sanctioned Rs.8 billion for the 2.5 million refugees who have fled the fighting.
“We must win the fight, we will,” Zardari maintained of the military operations in three districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

He was addressing a high-level meeting he jointly chaired here with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to review the military operations and the relief measures being undertaken for the displaced civilians.

The meeting decided to provide Rs.8 billion initially for the relief work to be carried out by various agencies, besides directly giving a one-time grant of Rs.25,000 to each of the displaced families, APP news agency reported.

However, in a move that could spark rampant corruption, the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), under which the relief will be distributed, has been asked to waive, on a one-time basis, the requirement of beneficiaries possessing a government-issued smart card listing their details.

“The BISP will now not require the internally displaced people to produce computerized identity cards nor insist on making payment to the female member of the family, as is required at present,” APP said.

Some 2.5 million civilians have been displaced since the security forces’ action began April 26 and have been temporarily housed in 22 relief camps.

The Pakistani military, meanwhile, Wednesday announced the capture of the Taliban stronghold of Sultanwas in NWFP’s Buner district.

“Security forces have cleared Sultanwas last (Tuesday) night after intense clashes,” an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement said.

“Reportedly, 80 terrorists were killed during clearance of Sultanwas. Six vehicles which were being used by terrorists clad in black uniforms were also destroyed during operation,” the statement added.

This brings to about 1,100 the number of militants killed so far in the military action. No consolidated figures have been released on the casualties among the security forces.

On his part, Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani Wednesday chaired a high-level meeting to review the military operations.

“COAS (chief of army staff) presided over a high level meeting in General Headquarters to review the progress of ongoing operations. He appreciated the conduct of operations and high morale of troops,” an ISPR statement said.

“He stressed upon the need to provide relief to IDPs (internally displaced persons) through an aggressive management system,” the statement added.

The meeting was held immediately on Kayani’s return here from working visits to France, where he met President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Brussels, where he held discussions with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop.

The security forces had gone into action after the Taliban violated a controversial peace accord with the NWFP government and moved south from their Swat headquarters to occupy the Buner district that is just 100 km from Islamabad.

The operations had initially begun in Lower Dir, the home district of Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad who had brokered the peace accord, and later spread to Buner and Swat.

The Pakistani army has also established a relief fund for the civilians displaced in the NWFP.

“All those desirous may donate in Army’s Relief Fund for IDPs in Account Number. 0028010121825-8, Askari Commercial Bank Limited, General Headquarters Branch Rawalpindi,” an ISPR statement said.

“Donations can also be deposited in any branch of Askari Commercial Bank Limited, country-wise,” the statement added.

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