Islamabad/Washington, April 28 (Inditop) Saying that “enough is enough”, Pakistan Tuesday warned the Taliban of “strict action” if it attempted to challenge the government’s writ, even as the top US military commander expressed frustration over Islamabad’s “inability” to confront the growing extremist threat.
“Enough is enough. If the government’s writ is challenged, or any terrorist activity takes place any where in the country, we will take strict action,” Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters in Islamabad.
Responding to a question on the security forces’ action in the Lower Dir district in Pakistan’s restive northwest that continued for the third day Tuesday, Malik said it was against elements who wanted to sabotage an accord to restore peace in the area.
He said 70 militants had so far been killed in Lower Dir while another 450 were reported to be holed up in the area but refrained from laying down a time frame for the operation to conclude.
On his part, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, is “very alarmed by the growing extremist threat in Pakistan and remains frustrated particularly by the political leadership’s inability to confront that threat,” his spokesman said.
Mullen, on his two visits to Pakistan in less than three weeks, was “deeply alarmed by what he has found,” the spokesman, Capt. John Kirby, told a US television channel.
“It is a very precarious security situation.”
Mullen was particularly “alarmed by what is going on in the Swat Valley,” Kirby said, adding: “Instead of laying down their arms under the terms of a peace deal, the Taliban again picked them up.”
Mullen’s views about the deterioration in Pakistan had accelerated since he visited Islamabad earlier this month with US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, Kirby pointed out.
During the most recent visit Mullen “expressed those concerns” to Pakistan’s military leaders and urged them to be “more aggressive” in “confronting” the Taliban, Kirby added.
The North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government and Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad had Feb 16 signed a controversial peace accord to impose Sharia laws in Swat and six other districts of the province in return for the militants laying down their arms.
President Asif Ali Zardari balked at ratifying the accord in the face of strident international pressure and tossed the deal to parliament, which approved it April 13. Zardari approved it the same night and the accord came into force two days later.
The Taliban, however, did not keep up their end of the bargain and moved south from Swat to last week seize control of Buner district that is just 100 km from Islamabad.
They were persuaded to move out after Sufi Mohammad intervened.
On Sunday, Pakistani security forces moved into Lower Dir to the south of Swat and which is the cleric’s home district to flush out the Taliban that had taken control of the area.
Swat, Buner and Lower Dir are part of what is termed the Malakand division of the NWFP.
Sufi Mohammad had suspended the Swat peace deal after the security operation began and on Tuesday, the NWFP government again invited him for talks.