Pakistan’s top leadership vows to eliminate Taliban (Roundup)

May 11th, 2009 - 9:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad/New York, May 11 (IANS) Pakistan’s top leadership has vowed to take a military operation against the Taliban in the country’s troubled northwest to its logical conclusion, saying the militants would be eliminated and collateral damage kept to the minimum.
On its part, the military said Monday afternoon that the operations, now in their 16th day, was “making headway successfully” and that 52 militants had been killed in the last 24 hours.

This would bring to around 750 the number of Taliban fighters who had been killed since the operations began April 26.

Vowing to force the Taliban to lay down their arms, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Monday the government’s writ would be re-established in the northwest.

“No matter how strong they (the militants) may get, they cannot fight with the armed forces of Pakistan. We will soon force them to lay down their arms,” he said while making a policy statement in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, on the military operations in three districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

“These terrorists are trying to destabilize and conquer Pakistan. They have their own agenda. They don’t have a religion and are working under their foreign masters,” APP quoted the prime minister as saying.

“These (militants) are a handful of people who are not sincere to Pakistan. Inshallah, we will fight them bravely and strengthen the defence of the country,” the prime minister maintained.

He noted in this context that the National Assembly had last month approved the imposition of Sharia laws in the Malakand division of the NWFP that comprises seven districts, including Swat, Buner and Lower Dir, where the military operations are currently underway. In turn, the militants were to have laid down their arms, which they did not, Gilani noted.

He lamented that instead of ensuring peace, the writ of the NWFP government was challenged, personnel of the law enforcing agencies were taken hostage and government property was destroyed or forcefully occupied.

Reiterating Pakistan’s commitment to defeat the Taliban insurgency in the northwest, President Asif Ali Zardari has vowed to keep collateral damage to the minimum.

“We don’t want to make one million dead,” APP quoted Zardari as saying Sunday evening while addressing a largely-attended meeting of Pakistani-Americans at a hotel in New York.

He also urged his audience to read contemporary history, not age-old history, about instances of large-scale casualties resulting from attempts by several countries to wipe out insurgencies.

“We want to avoid bloodshed so that the effect was minimal and a solution found. This moment calls for a lot of courage and at the same time a lot of thinking,” the president maintained.

The Pakistani military moved into action against the Taliban after they violated a controversial peace accord with the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government and moved south from their Swat headquarters to occupy Buner district that is just 100 km from Islamabad.

Under the accord, brokered by Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad with the NWFP government, Sharia laws were to be be imposed in Swat and seven other districts of the districts collectively known as the Malakand division, in return for the militants laying down their arms.

The military operation began in the Lower Dir district and later spread to Buner and Swat.

Close to 300,000 civilians have been displaced due to the military action, UN agencies and other NGOs have estimated.

Zardari also said Pakistani and US intelligence agencies - the ISI and the CIA - together created the Taliban, but denied Islamabad would like to retain it as a bulwark against Indian influence in Afghanistan.

“I don’t think so. I don’t think so,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” programme Sunday when asked if there was a view in Pakistan that the Taliban should be kept around for a rainy day as a bulwark against Indian influence.

“I think it was part of your past and our past, and the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) and the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) created them together,” said Zardari when asked if the creation of Taliban was not part of Pakistan’s past.

“And I can find you 10 books and 10 philosophers and 10 write-ups on that, of what all you didn’t do,” Zardari said, referring to the creation of Taliban to fight the then Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

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