Pakistani forces move against Taliban
The tenuous peace deal with the militants comes under increasing strain as Taliban take areas closer to Pakistan’s capital.
A Pakistani military launched an operation Sunday into an area covered by a peace accord with the Taliban. The offensive underscores rising tensions between the government and militants as the Taliban in the past week have moved closer to Pakistan's capital.Skip to next paragraph
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Pakistani forces engaged militants Sunday in the district of Lower Dir following a Taliban attack on a convoy carrying Frontier Corps paramilitary soldiers, according to the Pakistani military. One paramilitary and several militants were reported killed after fierce gun battles.
Farhatullah Babar, the spokesman for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, was quick to reassure the public that the peace-deal remains intact. But he also reiterated the government's desire "to root out the militants hell-bent on destroying the law and order situation."
Interior Ministry advisor Rehman Malik added to the stern language: "There is no option for them except to lay down their arms, because the government is serious now to flush them out."
Indeed, after almost a year of on-off negotiations with the Taliban of northwest Pakistan's Swat Valley, the government's patience appears to be running out.
Last week's capture by militants of Buner district, a key area merely 60 miles northwest of the capital of Islamabad, has allowed the government and its major coalition allies to find a "unity of purpose" against the Taliban according to lawmakers and analysts.
According to reports on Sunday, the Taliban maintains a strong presence there despite a promise to withdraw.
A concerted military push-back is expected within days should current talks with the Taliban fall through.
"[Till recently] there had not been an understanding as to the clear and present danger these militants pose to Pakistan," says Farah Ispahani, a spokesperson for Mr. Zardari and member of parliament for the ruling Pakistan People's Party. "Our opinion polls had taken a beating for speaking out."
Not just a frontier problem anymore
The political dynamic began to change two months ago when a series of attacks in Pakistan's most populous province of Punjab left lawmakers, civil society, and the media shaken.