Pakistan bans Taliban outfit amidst military campaign

More than 300,000 people have fled their homes as fighting worsens between security forces and militants.

The Pakistani government on Monday banned the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a militant group that has been responsible for many suicide attacks across the country since 2007. The ban, which may end the government's policy of sometimes negotiating with militants, comes as the government struggles to accommodate more than 300,000 people who have been displaced amidst fighting between security forces and militants in Bajaur Agency, a haven for Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters near the border with Afghanistan.

According to the BBC, the Interior Ministry chief claimed the ban was implemented because the Taliban has "created mayhem against the public life." The Interior Ministry has also asked the state bank to freeze any accounts that the TTP may have.

"They themselves have claimed responsibility of several suicide attacks and the government cannot engage in a dialogue with such people," [Mr. Malik] said.

Agence France-Presse reports that the organization has been blamed for attacks in which nearly 1,200 people have been killed since July 2007.

The TTP is headed by Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud, based in the lawless South Waziristan tribal district bordering Afghanistan....
The previous government accused Mehsud of orchestrating the gun and suicide attack which killed former premier Benazir Bhutto last December but he denied involvement.
The Islamic fundamentalist movement has been involved in a wave of suicide attacks targeting security installations to demand an end to an army offensive against militants near the Afghan border.

The Pakistan government announced the ban a day after Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, said in an interview with the BBC that Pakistan and the world were losing the war on terror. He said that the Taliban currently had the "upper hand" and should therefore be listed as a banned organization. Mr. Zardari made the remarks soon after the Pakistan People's Party nominated him as a presidential candidate on Sunday. The Pakistani parliament is scheduled to elect a new president to replace Pervez Musharraf on September 6.

The ban also comes on the heels of the deadliest attack by the Taliban since they began their campaign against government sites last year. Last week, two suicide bombers killed more than 60 people outside Pakistan's largest weapons factory complex, The New York Times reported. Members of the TTP claimed that the bombings were in response to a Pakistani military campaign that has been targeting militants using fighter jets and helicopter gunships for the past two weeks in Bajaur.

According to the Associated Press, the ban signals the end of the Pakistani government's sporadic policy of negotiating with TTP militants. The Interior Ministry announced its decision 24 hours after rejecting a Taliban cease-fire offer in Bajaur. Previously, several cease-fire deals have been negotiated with the TTP and other militants, but none have successfully stemmed the violence or put an end to incursions into Afghanistan.

According to another Associated Press report, the ban has been championed by United States officials, but dismissed by members of the TTP.

Spokesman Lou Fintor said the U.S. Embassy had seen media reports about the ban. "Pakistan's leadership has clearly stated their commitment to pursuing and eliminating terrorism and securing Pakistan's borders for the benefit of its own citizens," he said.

However, a spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban claimed the ban was "meaningless." "Our organization is neither registered nor do we have any bank accounts," Muslim Khan said.

Recent fighting between government forces and militants has forced 300,000 people to flee the Bajaur region. According to numbers from the United Nations, about 60 percent of the total displaced have found refuge with relatives and friends while 40 percent are in emergency camps, reports Reuters. Regional authorities are now seeking millions of dollars to provide aid to those who have left their homes.

More than 200 people, mostly militants but including some civilians, have been killed in the fighting in which fighter jets and attack helicopters have pounded militant hideouts in the mountains.
Security forces issued warnings for people to leave before they began the offensive, and many heeded it, pouring out of the region packed in pick-up trucks or on foot.
Most of the displaced went to stay with friends or family in safer parts of the northwest but a senior provincial official said many were now turning up at relief centres set up in schools and at tent camps looking for help....
The provincial government urgently needed $13 million to help the displaced, [provincial relief commissioner Jameel Amjad] said.

The Pakistani English-language daily Dawn reports that some relief has been provided to those displaced by the fighting.

Referring to the displaced people, [interior minister Malik] said the government had released Rs 80.032 million on the request of the Interior Ministry for relief work and goods had been sent through the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to the Provincial Relief Commissioner.
Thirty relief goods trucks were dispatched to Bajaur.
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