Pakistan Orders Military to Eliminate Militants, Terrorists
Pakistan ordered its military to eliminate militants on Thursday, as troops targeted suspected Taliban positions in the country’s northwest.
|Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in televised address, 7 May 2009 (Pakistan government photo)|
In a televised address, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani urged the nation to unite against extremists. He also called on the international community to assist in helping those displaced by fighting in Swat Valley.
Thousands of civilians have fled Swat since government troops stepped up their offensive, following the collapse of a peace deal with Taliban militants in the area. Aid agencies are warning of a humanitarian crisis.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told reporters in Washington that the operation will continue until normalcy is restored in the region.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in neighboring Afghanistan Thursday that he is very satisfied with Pakistan’s response and that there is “very little chance” the Taliban would achieve “the level of success” needed to take control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
The Pakistani military says its regional offensive has killed more than 200 militants.
A spokesman for Sufi Muhammad, the radical Muslim cleric who helped negotiate the short-lived cease-fire, said one of Muhammad’s sons was killed Thursday when a bomb or artillery shell hit his house in Dir district.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday it has unconfirmed reports that up to 500,000 Pakistanis have been displaced by the conflict in Dir, Swat and Buner districts.
The fighting is the deadliest outbreak since February, when local officials signed a controversial peace deal with Islamist militants.
A provincial official, Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain, said the militants violated the deal that required them to disarm in exchange for the establishment of Islamic law (Sharia) in Malakand Division. The official accused militants of trying to set up a parallel government in the area.
Many in Pakistan believe extremist activities by the Taliban appear to have reduced public support for the militants’ cause.