Pakistan PM urges unity against terror, cleric sues for peace (Roundup)

April 30th, 2009 - 7:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, April 30 (IANS) Saying a military operation against the Taliban in Pakistan’s restive northwest was meant to restore the writ of the government, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Thursday urged the nation to unite in the war against terror as a radical cleric sued for peace.
“All political forces should unite against the scourge of terrorism. At this crucial time, the entire nation should forget political differences and rise to the occasion by unitedly meeting the challenges,” Associated Press of Pakistan quoted Gilani as saying during a meeting with Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

“This is the only way that designs of the militants and extremists can be defeated,” he added.

On his part, Malik briefed the prime minister on the operations in the Buner district of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) that lies just 100 km from this Pakistani capital.

Some 70 to 75 Taliban fighters have been killed in a similar operation in the neighbouring Lower Dir district. Gilani also asked Malik to take steps for rehabilitating the internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had been affected by the fighting.

Also on Thursday, Taliban-linked cleric Sufi Mohammad, who had brokered a controversial peace deal with the NWFP government and had gone underground after the Lower Dir operation began Sunday, appeared in public and called for an end to the fighting

“Operations in Dir and Buner are promoting Talibanisation,” Geo TV quoted him as saying, even as he offered to help restore peace in the area.

Meanwhile, the security forces Thursday pounded militants’ positions in different areas of Maidan tehsil in Lower Dir. Several hideouts of the militants were destroyed and heavy causalities are feared, Geo TV reported.

Curfew was relaxed from 8 a.m. To 1 p.m. In Maidan and markets and business centers partially opened in Islam Darra, Haya Sarai and Kalkot areas. Educational institutions, however, remained shut.

Under the Feb 16 peace deal between Sufi Mohammad and the NWFP government, Sharia laws would be imposed in Swat, Lower Dir, Buner and four other districts of the province in return for the Taliban laying down their arms.

The pact came into force April 16 but the Taliban reneged on it almost immediately as they moved south from their Swat headquarters and occupied Buner, sending alarm bells ringing in Islamabad.

The security forces had gone into action against the Taliban in Lower Dir Sunday and began their action in Buner Tuesday.

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