Want proof of Taliban casualties: Pakistani editorial

June 20th, 2009 - 5:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, June 20 (IANS) Despite the Pakistani military’s anti-Taliban operation in the country’s restive northwest entering its 56th day and claims of over 1,400 militants being killed, there was no visual evidence available of the successes achieved, an editorial in a leading English daily lamented Saturday.
It also warned that unless the principal Taliban protagonists - Baitullah Mehsud and Maulana Fazlullah - were captured or killed, “the war we fight now will continue for a year or even more”.

“Daily updates from military spokesmen tell us of casualties on both sides and the location of some operations in the preceding twenty-four hours. They are never accompanied by contemporary footage, a map or any supporting documentation of some of the dead Taliban for instance, The News said.

The editorial was headlined “No Taliban brass”.

It also pointed out that there was “never mention” of civilian casualties - the collateral damage of the operations - “despite ample anecdotal evidence from IDPs (internally displaced persons) that civilians have died as a result of the actions of our army”.

Noting that there was no independent verification of the Taliban casualties , the editorial said: “The numbers of Taliban dead seem improbably high given that they fight in less-than-platoon sized units and are highly mobile.

“‘Hideouts’ are reportedly ‘cleared out’ every day - but have we ever seen a picture of one of these ‘hideouts’ immediately after it was ‘cleared’? Does nobody in the military have access to a camera?” the editorial wondered.

It also questioned why a single member of the Taliban top brass had not been killed or captured?

“Unless the two vultures at the top of the tree - Baitullah Mehsud and Fazlullah - are taken down, then the Taliban are going to live to fight another day.”

“Unless and until these men are caught or killed, the war we fight now will continue for a year or even more. And when they are caught or killed, we want to see them - dead or alive - because nothing less will satisfy,” the editorial maintained.

Mehsud heads the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the umbrella group of various Taliban groups operating in the country. His writ largely runs in the ungovernable South Waziristan agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Mehsud is also accused of having a hand in the Dec 27, 2007, gun and bomb attack that killed former prime minister Benazir Bhutto as she left a political rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi adjacent to Islamabad.

Fazlullah heads the Taliban in Swat, one of the three districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) where the military operations are underway.

The operations began April 26 after the Taliban reneged on a controversial peace deal with the NWFP government and instead moved south from their Swat headquarters and occupied Buner, which is just 100 km from Islamabad.

The operations had begun in Lower Dir, the home district of Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad, who had brokered the peace deal and who is Fazlullah’s father-in-law. They later spread to Buner and Lower Dir.

The military says it has largely secured Buner and Lower Dir districts and is now engaged in mopping up operations in Swat.

Some three million civilians have been displaced from the three districts by the military operations.

The Pakistani government has now decided to send the military into action against Baitullah Mehsud.

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