Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has said that the Pakistan Army will take a decision about launching a ground offensive in the North Waziristan tribal region after “taking stock” of the on-ground situation.
He added that a decision about extending the tenure of Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani “will be taken at an appropriate time.” The PM was talking to journalists after inaugurating the photo exhibition “Swat is Smiling Again” at the PNCA in Islamabad.
In reply to another question, Gilani admitted that the defence budget would be increased to meet the demands of the armed forces. He refused to give numbers. Asked about the recent visit of General Kayani to Kabul, the premier said it was not linked to a military operation in North Waziristan. “The Pakistani military occasionally shares information with the US-led coalition forces stationed in Afghanistan,” he said.
When quizzed about the visits of top US officials to Pakistan following the bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square, Gilani clarified that his government “was not under any pressure or threat” from the US administration. Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Gilani visited Swat district to express solidarity with the populace.
Speaking at a ceremony in Saidu Sharif, he defended his government’s decision to launch a military operation against Taliban insurgents in Swat, saying that terrorists are working on a foreign agenda to destabilise Pakistan. “We will send troops to restore the state’s writ wherever it is challenged,” he promised. The prime minister said the operation was “indispensible” because the militants did not stop their activities even after the government had accepted their demand to enforce shariah laws in the region.
Gilani said that the decision to launch the military operation was not taken by the government unilaterally. “We decided to move troops into Swat after taking all political parties into confidence,” he said. Referring to Pakistan’s key role in the fight against global terrorism, the prime minister said world security hinged on stability in Pakistan. “The war against terrorism is Pakistan’s war. It’s our own battle for survival,” he added.
Prime Minister Gilani said that repatriation of more than three million people to their homes after the successful military operation was an uphill task. “The government successfully handled the mass exodus of people and repatriated them within three months. It is unprecedented,” Gilani claimed. He assured residents of Malakand division that the government was working to restore the lost glory of Swat.
The prime minister also announced that a university would be built in Swat to educate local youths. He also distributed cheques among the heirs of those killed in Swat fighting and those whose houses were destroyed. For his part, the chief minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Amir Haider Hoti, said the people of Swat had to suffer a lot in the fight against extremism.
However, residents of Swat were not satisfied with the PM’s announcement because they had high expectations from him. “He did not announce any package. He only repeated previous announcements,” local journalist Niaz Khan told The Express Tribune. Chief of the Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa chapter of PMLQ, Engineer Amir Muqam came down hard on the ANP-led provincial government, saying that it failed to get a relief package approved for the people of Malakand.
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