Minimum collateral damage in fighting Taliban: Zardari

May 11th, 2009 - 8:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban New York, May 11 (IANS) Reiterating Pakistan’s commitment to defeat a Taliban insurgency in the country’s troubled 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 here.

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 April 26 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.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik was Monday quoted as saying some 700 militants had so far been killed in the operations.

Likening the Taliban and Al Qaeda to a “monster”, he also sought international support in eliminating the menace.

“The monster had bit Pakistan, it bit the United States and also the world at large,” Zardari maintained.

Detailing the circumstances in which the Pakistan Peoples Party-led coalition government had assumed office after the February 2008 general elections, Zardari said he would do his utmost to ensure Pakistan reached its full potential.

“We have to come together and save Pakistan. Democracy was a part of the solution and a starting point to resolving all the problems being faced by the country,” he said.

According to Zardari, Pakistan needed at least 10 years of peace and sustained international economic support to reach it full potential.

Referring to his talks in Washington with President Barack Obama and other administration officials and congressional leaders, he said they have now a better understanding of Pakistan’s point of view.

Terming the visit as successful, he said he could now speak to US leaders with confidence as the elected leader of Pakistan and one who had the confidence of nation’s parliament.

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