News / Asia

    Pakistan Jets Bomb Militants

    Pakistan jets pounded Taliban hideouts in the country's remote tribal northwestern region Tuesday, killing some 30 militants.

    Pakistan’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved a key internal security policy that aims to set the tone for how the government plans to tackle militant threats, including the Taliban insurgency.
     
    The Cabinet also called on the Taliban to announce an unconditional and unilateral ceasefire, before any kind of peace talks can take place.
     
    As former military spokesman Retired Major General Athar Abbas explains, the policy paper is a long-term strategy that still needs parliamentary approval.
     
    Abbas says given the recent forceful military reaction against militant attacks, there may well be a full-scale military operation against the Taliban insurgents before the new policy is implemented.
     
    “I am not sure whether a final decision has been taken with regards to the operations in North Waziristan, but for sure the military has gone on a very strong reaction to individual incidents. It may be a precursor to the main military operation there,” he said.

    Hundreds of families are already fleeing the North Waziristan area on fears that the recent air strikes are meant to soften militant targets before a major offensive is launched.
     
    The government on Tuesday appointed a liaison for internally displaced people leaving North Waziristan, an area known as a militant stronghold.
     
    Interior Minister Choudhry Nisar Ali Khan is expected to unveil the policy’s details to the national assembly on Wednesday.
     
    The military has long resisted conducting a major operation in North Waziristan, and strong divisions remain in Pakistan over whether that is the best way forward.
     
    But Frederic Grare, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says the shifting political situation in Afghanistan could spur the government and military to forcefully tackle the Pakistan Taliban before the end of 2014.
     
    “What they seem to fear is an alliance between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, and in the very probable occurrence where the Afghan Taliban would not be in a position to conquer Kabul any time soon, then the possibility that they may join hands with Pakistani Taliban,” he said.

    Such an alliance, Grare says, could encourage the militant groups to grab control of northwest Pakistan to form a de facto ideological state, which would threaten the integrity of Pakistan.
     
    “This is something which I think finds an echo in the military mind as well, and is clearly something that inhibits their policy vis-à-vis Afghanistan,” he said.

    Both Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his chief political opponent, Imran Khan, have insisted that a political settlement is the only way to end the seven-year Taliban insurgency.
     
    But attempts at peace talks collapsed in the wake of relentlessly lethal militant attacks stretching from the southern city of Karachi to the country’s northwest.
     
    In retaliation to the Taliban attacks, military jets and helicopter gunships pounded militant strongholds across Pakistan’s northwest tribal region for the fifth consecutive day Tuesday.

    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

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