ISLAMABAD: Overstretched with consolidating the gains of previous campaigns against militancy, the Pakistan Army has no immediate plans to launch an offensive in the North Waziristan Agency, which the Americans consider the epicentre of al Qaeda.
A military official told The Express Tribune here on Thursday that the operation in North Waziristan would be launched only if it is in Pakistan’s ‘interest.’ His comments came after US President Barack Obama’s top military adviser said the Pakistan Army had pledged to go after militants in North Waziristan, which the US believes is harbouring al Qaeda.
“We have never said that we won’t launch an operation in North Waziristan, but its timing will be decided by Pakistan alone,” said the military official, requesting anonymity. He said the military had already been overstretched in six tribal agencies and their engagement in relief activities in flood-hit areas made it difficult for them to open another front.
“But this is one problem, the real issue is that we have to determine whether going after the militants in North Waziristan at this stage serves our interest,” he said. It is widely believed that Pakistan’s reluctance to go after militants such as the Haqqani network in North Waziristan stems from the fact that the military does not see it as a direct threat to their interests.
The primary focus of the militants in North Waziristan is to target the US-led Nato forces in neighbouring Afghanistan. That was the reason, the Americans are pushing Pakistan to launch the offensive in North Waziristan, remarked another military official.
Reacting to US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen’s statement, Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit said the offensive will be launched, not at Washington’s behest, but in view of the country’s plans and priorities. “It will be our own decision as to when and how to proceed in North Waziristan,” Basit added.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2010.