The government announced on Sunday that a ‘decisive offensive’ will be launched against Baitullah Mehsud, chief of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and his associates.
‘The government has decided to launch an operation against militants in Fata. It has been decided that a comprehensive and decisive operation will be launched to eliminate Baitullah Mehsud and dismantle his network,’ NWFP Governor Owais Ghani said at a press conference here on Sunday night. He said the Taliban’s actions did not match their words.
‘We have repeatedly warned the Mehsud tribe through tribal elders to give up their miscreant activities and advised them not to shelter foreign militants. The government will not tolerate any act against the security of the people’s lives and property at any cost,’ he said.
‘They kept on their miscreant activities and continued to harbour terrorists. As a result, many people have lost their lives in suicide attacks in Lahore, Peshawar, Islamabad and today in Dera Ismail Khan,’ the governor said.
He said the Taliban had committed a reprehensible act by kidnapping students of the Razmak Cadet College and training innocent teenagers for carrying out suicide attacks.
Governor Ghani said the army had been ordered to launch a crackdown on militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
‘Details and the strategy of the operation will be decided by the army,’ he said. He said Baitullah was the root of the problem and suicide bombers were being trained by him.
He said it was the responsibility of every government to establish its writ, protect people’s lives and property and maintain law and order.
‘Taliban are tarnishing the image of Pakistan and maligning Islam with such actions. They are enemies of Islam and Pakistan who want to destabilise the country,’ he added.
The governor said the terrorists were spending about Rs4 billion a year on ration, communication, transport, weapons and salaries of militants. Answering a question about the situation in Malakand division, he said terrorists had been defeated and they were on the run. He claimed that many areas in the region had been cleared after which caravans of displaced people comprising more than 100 trucks had returned to their villages in Kalam over the past few days. He said supply of water, electricity and other basic amenities had been restored in Swat and other areas.
AP adds: Army spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas said: ‘The government has made the announcement. We will give a comment after evaluating the orders.’
In recent weeks, militants and security personnel have repeatedly skirmished in South Waziristan, though the army has insisted that it is merely responding to attacks, not pursuing a new offensive.
A Taliban ‘commander’, Qari Hussain Ahmad, blamed the intelligence agencies for a blast that took place in Dera Ismail Khan on Sunday, saying the government was indulging in such acts to legitimise an operation in Waziristan. ‘They want to malign us. They want to use killings of innocent citizens against us.’