Punjab govt waking up to militant threat: Qureshi

Published: June 9, 2010

Qureshi said Pakistan's next priority in the fight against the Taliban is the North Waziristan tribal region. PHOTO: AP

ISTANBUL: The provincial government of Punjab is coming out of denial about the threat from militants there, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Tuesday.

Asked when Pakistan might launch a crackdown on militant groups in the eastern province of Punjab, Qureshi said some lower level militants had been picked up and some eliminated.

“I think some major incidents have taken place in Lahore and woken the Punjab government up,” Qureshi told Reuters in an interview at the end of a regional summit in Istanbul.

“I think they are coming out of the denial that they were living in.”

Suicide assaults on two Ahmadi mosques in the eastern city of Lahore last month killed more than 90 people and outraged Pakistanis.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, whose brother Shahbaz is Punjab’s chief minister, was quoted in the Pakistani media this weekend as voicing solidarity with the Ahmadi minority sect by describing them as brothers.

The Punjab government has been criticised in the past for shirking any confrontation with militant groups, who have been dubbed the Punjabi Taliban.

Qureshi said Pakistan’s next priority in the fight against the Taliban is North Waziristan tribal region.

The United States regularly launches drone missile attacks on al Qaeda and Taliban targets in North Waziristan and has been anticipating a Pakistani offensive there since last year.

Qureshi said the army was moving toward an offensive in North Waziristan in a “calculated fashion” after an earlier successful operation in South Waziristan.

“Our next priority is going to be North Waziristan but we have to time our operations in line with our resources,” he said. “At the moment we are consolidating our position in South Waziristan.”

“Militant leaders have fled to Somalia, Yemen”

Qureshi said Pakistan’s military successes in the tribal belt and areas like Swat and Malakand had forced some militant leaders to flee outside the Pakistan-Afghanistan theatre, and move to other countries with a known al Qaeda presence.

“Our information is that they have gone into different areas, Somalia, Yemen and other destinations,” he said. “The tribal belt is no longer the safe haven that it used to be.”

Qureshi, who met his Afghan counterpart for confidence building talks in Istanbul on Monday, said relations had improved markedly in the two years since a democratic government took power in Pakistan.

Pakistan has lived in fear that a friendship between old foe India and Afghanistan posed a risk of encirclement.

Asked whether India’s presence in Afghanistan was still worrying Pakistan, Qureshi said; “The security challenges that Afghanistan faces can be helped more by Pakistan than India can help them. So I think that an exaggerated presence would not be in order.”

A peace process begun in early 2004 between India and Pakistan was put on hold after the attack on Mumbai by Pakistani militants that killed 166 people in November, 2008, but next month Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna will visit Islamabad.

India’s Interior Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram is due to hold bilateral talks with his counterpart on the sidelines of a regional ministerial meeting in Islamabad on June 26.

“We have to spend time to bridge the trust gap and think of confidence building measures that will restore the shaken confidence on both sides,” Qureshi said.

Reader Comments (5)

  • Zainab Ali
    Jun 9, 2010 - 11:46AM

    This early realization will help the provincial government to make necessary arrangements for security of the region; the high ups in the provincial government must hold talks with all the stakeholders, including the banned organizations and convince them to change their ways.Recommend

  • ali hamdani
    Jun 9, 2010 - 12:19PM

    With Punjab having the most population there are mujahidin still being recruited from this region. We must stop this as recently we have seen how Punjab was struck with consecutive terrorist attacks. There must be a rehabilitation center set up in this province similar to the one in swat.Recommend

  • Mansoor Khalid
    Jun 9, 2010 - 1:13PM

    Pakistan must conduct operations against such elements and conduct them fast. After the operation in KP, some terrorist elements are trying to re-unite themselves in Punjab. We must not give them time to do so and strike when they are weak.Recommend

  • Sadia Hussain
    Jun 9, 2010 - 3:47PM

    Firstly why was the Government of Punjab sleeping at the first place? It is good that we are coming of the denial that militants are not in Punjab. After over hundreds of attacks in Punjab the realization has been made that there is strong presence of militancy in Punjab and it’s not just Punjab but all over Pakistan. While we launch yet another operation we need to rehabilitate the militants who are willing to denounce violence and can provide vital intelligence.Recommend

  • KM
    Jun 23, 2010 - 2:23PM

    Everyone is working on to KILL, but no one is willing to understand the root causes. What about people killing each other in Karachi, apart from the hostile menuvers of the so called Talibans? Dear all, education, health, and unemployment are the main causes, which are tending people to move towards extreme insane measures. Unfortunately, our government is busy enjoying the lifestyles and slashing budgets for the root causes. Eventually the whole Pakistan will become militant, who wouldnt have a clue on their actions. For a check, please check out budgetary allocation of all the countries which are progressing and you would know that their citizens have a positive purpose in life, and over here Islam being the major religion, people are still tending towards the wrong end. Once again, please understand that we all need to simplify our lifestyles and get the leaders to bear minimum, and eradicate corruption, so that money is available for the root causes, and then take it as a promise there will be NO militancy, as everyone will have a positive purpose in life.Recommend

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