Pakistan vows to defeat Taliban, army chief visits Swat (Third Lead)

May 14th, 2009 - 7:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 14 (IANS) The Taliban will be defeated militarily in the security forces’ operations in the country’s restive northwest, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani declared here Thursday, on a day when the army chief paid a surprise visit to the battleground.
“Militarily we will win the war, but it will be unfortunate if we loose it publicly,” Gilani said while intervening in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, during the debate on the military operations that entered their 19th day Thursday.

Referring to the nearly one million internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have fled the fighting in three districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Gilani said: “They are our brothers, sisters and children and we should win their minds and hearts.”

According to the prime minister, the people of Pakistan have “the same passion and love for these displaced persons which they displayed after the 2005 earthquake” that had claimed upwards of 80,000 lives and rendered some 3.3 million homeless in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

Another 1,400 people were killed in India-controlled Kashmir.

During the visit to Swat, army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani met the military commanders leading the troops in the fighting, Geo TV reported, adding that he was also briefed about the progress made in the operation.

The visit, a clear indication that the military was making headway against the Taliban, came a day after heliborne troops captured Peochar, the headquarters of Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah.

Fazlullah is the son-in-law of Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad who had brokered a controversial peace accord with the NWFP government and whose violation by the militants had prompted the military action April 26.

The operations had begun in the Lower Dir district to the west of Swat and later spread to Buner, which is just 100 km from Islamabad.

On Friday, Kayani will brief the parliamentarians on the military operations, in which over 800 militants have been killed so far.

Parliament will also be informed of the army’s “exit policy” from the troubled areas once the operations achieve their targets, Gilani said in the National Assembly.

The Pakistani media Thursday lauded the operations, saying the military had made “significant advances” against the Taliban.

“It is clear that significant advances have been made in recent days and the Taliban are now on the defensive,” Dawn said in an editorial headlined “As the battle heats up”.

“Given the appeasement policies of successive governments, perhaps they never expected so ferocious a response,” it added.

The editorial also said the capture of Peochar “will have a huge bearing on the wider fight against militancy”, the editorial said, adding that the capture or surrender of Fazlullah may demoralise the militants who still control Mingora, Swat’s largest city, “and lead to desertions in other areas as well”.

This apart, a rout of the Fazlullah-led Taliban “may also destabilise their counterparts in the tribal belt, which must become the focus of counter-insurgency efforts once peace is achieved in Swat”.

At the same time, the editorial noted that a Taliban setback in Swat could “also produce the reverse effect in the tribal areas. It may serve as a catalyst for binding together the loose confederation of militants operating there and ultimately produce a more united fighting force”.

Daily Times noted that the National Assembly had lined up behind the military operation.

During a debate in the house, politicians across the spectrum “were of the opinion that it should be pursued till the end of the Taliban terrorists to avoid a national disaster.

“Independent surveys tell the same story. Over 70 percent people in Pakistan agree that the Pakistan Army has to face up to the Taliban threat,” said the editorial, headlined “Going after the terrorists in Swat”.

The prestige of Pakistani Army chief had gone up as had that of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, it added.

“The media has also lined up behind the operation realising that it is now a national cause, not a little affected by the reckless killing and banning of journalists by the Taliban,” the editorial said.

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