06/15/2009, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Pakistan announces a “decisive offensive” against the Taliban

by Qaiser Felix
The Pakistani military begins operations in tribal areas. Its goal is to eliminate Baitullah Mehsud, head of a group that claimed responsibility for attacks against the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar and a Lahore mosque. For Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the Pakistani Catholic Church’s National Commission for Justice and Peace, military actions alone will not beat extremism; a mobilisation of the people is needed.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – The Pakistani government has announced a “decisive offensive” against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its chief, Baitullah Mehsud, as well as the networks of extremists that are connected to them. North West Frontier Province (NWFP) Governor Owais Ghani said that troops had been ordered into action to eliminate the Taliban leader and groups operating in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

The announcement of the offensive comes a few days after two terror attacks. One, against the Hotel Pearl Continental in Peshawar, killed 19 people on 9 June; the other involved the assassination by a suicide bomber of anti-Taliban religious leader, Sarfraz Naeemi, at a Lahore mosque last Friday. The TTP claim responsibility for both attacks.

For their part Pakistani security forces carried out operations in the NWFP and Waziristan, killing 66 Taliban last Saturday and Sunday.

Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the Pakistani Catholic Church’s National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), condemned the attacks in Lahore and Peshawar.

Speaking to AsiaNews from Lahore, the NCJP secretary deplored the attack in that city, because it “is sacred and now sad after the blast.”

At the same time he said the government “should have thought that its anti-Taliban offensive at the start of May in the Swat Valley would not be contained in the Malakand Division and would spill over into other parts of the country.”

“Terrorism is not a single issue. It has multiple faces,” he explained. In fact, “extremism is not limited to one area” because “the Taliban have penetrated the whole country.”

For the NCJP secretary the most recent military successes and those in Malakand “are a partial, not a final victory.”

“Unless the government faces up to the problems of the madrassah, education and its foreign policies, it cannot eliminate terrorism,” Father Jacob explained.

Indeed without a broader approach the government cannot “defeat extremism. Military action alone is not enough; what is needed is the mobilisation of the people.”

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