Political solution should follow Swat offensive: Pakistani PM (Lead)

May 15th, 2009 - 9:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Yousuf Raza Gilani Islamabad, May 15 (IANS) Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Friday called for a political solution to restore peace in the country’s restive northwest after the military concludes its operations to eliminate the Taliban in the area.
“The situation is not normal, militants have threatened the very fabric of our society, by trying to impose their will through coercive measures,” he said in his opening remarks ahead of an in-camera briefing by Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to a joint session of parliament.

“This in-camera meeting has been organized to take the political leadership of the country into confidence on the real situation and answer their questions on the necessity of army action in Swat and the issue of IDPs (internally displaced persons),” Gilani said.

According to Gilani, the military had been tasked to eliminate the Taliban and was proceeding with the task with full commitment and a high degree of professionalism.

The military Friday reported more “success” in its operations in Swat, saying 55 militants had been killed in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of Taliban casualties since the operations began in three districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) to close to 1,000.

“An important terrorist commander, Dawa Noor, has also been apprehended by security forces,” a statement from Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.

“Dawa Noor is a known terrorist Taliban commander and was grossly involved in terrorist activities in Sultanwas and Daggar,” the statement said.

“Before the security forces launched an operation in Buner, Dawa Noor was instigating the civil population of the area forces on FM radio and with the help of a loudspeaker on a Jeep. He played a crucial role in facilitating the taking over of Buner by Taliban terrorists,” the statement added.

The Pakistani Army went into action against the Taliban April 26 after they violated a controversial peace accord with the NWFP government and instead moved south from their Swat headquarters and occupied Buner district that is just 100 km from Islamabad.

The operations began in Lower Dir to the west of Swat and which is the home district of Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad, who had brokered the peace accord.

The operations subsequently spread to Buner and Swat.

The security forces achieved major success Wednesday when heliborne troops, after a day-long battle, captured Peochar, the headquarters of Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah, who is also Sufi Mohammad’s son-in-law.

On Friday, the Pakistani defence minister was quoted as saying that no time frame had been laid down for the military operations, while the junior interior minister said they would be completed within a month.

“The army is clearing the areas gradually and no time frame could be given in this regard,” Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar told the APP news agency.

According to Mukhtar, it was up to the army to evolve the strategy for the operations in the NWFP and he would not like to comment on this.

Questioned about reports of collateral damage due to the army operation, he said the army was making the utmost efforts to avoid this.

Heavy artillery, Mukhtar pointed out, was only being used to pound militants hideouts.

The army chief had directed Wednesday that collateral damage should be minimised and the security forces should focus on precision strikes.

Speaking to reporters here, Minister of State for Interior Tasnim Ahmad Qureshi said the military operations would be successfully completed within a month.

He did not elaborate.

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