US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said that Pakistan was prepared to launch combat operations against Taliban militants in North Waziristan Agency, which also serves as a haven for the al Qaeda-affiliated Haqqani network.
According to Panetta, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani discussed the planned operation in recent conversations with the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen John Allen.
The defence secretary told a news agency he did not know when the Pakistani operation would start, but he understands it will be in the “near future,” and that the main target will be the Pakistani Taliban, rather than the Haqqani network. He welcomed Gen Kayani’s initiative, even though the main target may not be the Haqqani leadership.
“They’ve talked about it for a long time. Frankly, I’d lost hope that they were going to do anything about it. But it does appear that they in fact are going to take that step.”
The US has long been frustrated by Islamabad’s refusal to target Afghan Taliban militants and their allies.
However, speculations about the possibility of an operation in North Waziristan have been rife, especially in the wake of Director-General Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam’s visit to the US. Many analysts believe Pakistan is reluctant to target groups with which it has strong historical ties and could be useful allies after foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan.
On Monday, while addressing the Azadi Parade in Kakul, Gen Kayani renewed the military’s commitment to fighting against terrorism.
“We realise that the most difficult task for any army is to fight against its own people. But this happens as a last resort. Our real objective is to restore peace in these areas so that people can lead normal lives,” he said, adding, “No state can afford a parallel system or a militant force.”
No joint operation: security officials
Senior security officials have dismissed speculations about a joint Pak-US operation in North Waziristan as ‘baseless’ and ‘absurd’.
One of the senior security officials, requesting anonymity, vehemently rejected the possibility of any ISI-CIA joint operation codenamed ‘Tight Screw’ in North Waziristan through which boots on ground has been accepted by Islamabad.
Sharing further details regarding ISI chief Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam’s visit to the US, the officer said, “Pakistan does not support the Haqqani network for their operations inside Afghanistan”.
With additional reporting by asad kharal in lahore
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2012.