05/08/2009, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Taliban a threat to the whole country, Pakistani PM says

by Qaiser Felix
Prime Minister Gilani says army intervention is the only way to protect peace and the unity of the nation. Army and political parties back prime minister. Human rights commission calls for a task force to cope with refugee emergency.
Islamabad (AsiaNews) – The “army has been called in to uphold the sanctity and integrity of the country, to eliminate militants and ensure the security of the people,” Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani said in an address to the nation. More importantly, the government’s decision to use the iron fist against the Taliban in the Swat Valley has earned it support across the political spectrum. The country’s human rights commission has warned however of a looming refugee crisis, calling on the authorities to set up a task force to tackle the emergency.

In a live TV and radio broadcast Pakistan’s prime minister said that the time has come for the government to take the necessary steps against Taliban militias, who have violated the peace and quiet of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Mr Gilani said that based on the agreement signed with the Taliban, which led to the implementation of Sharia in the Swat Valley, the militants were supposed to lay down their weapons. Unfortunately they did not.

Instead the militants violated the deal in the Swat Valley and Malakand and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes. The result has been that innocent and unarmed civilians are under constant threat, the prime minister said.

The government’s decision to act against the Taliban comes after a three-way summit in Washington between the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan, which focused on security and assistance.

Calling on the nation to stand united, Mr Gilani pledged a billion rupees (US$ 12 million) to meet the immediate needs of internally displaced people.

His appeal has been welcomed by both the army and parliament which are both solidly behind the prime minister.

Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani vowed that the Pakistan Army would mobilise all available resources to launch a ‘decisive operation’ to crush the Taliban.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the only party that opposed Sharia law in parliament, called Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s decision bold and timely and assured its support against the Taliban.

Similarly, the Awami National Party said that Gilani had taken the right decision.

Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid said that the prime minister’s speech was very logical

For his part NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the government had no option but to launch a military operation.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) called upon the federal government to immediately set up a special task force to implement a relief plan for the large number of people displaced in the ongoing conflict in the country’s northern part, a number which may soon reach a million.

Their needs are both urgent and substantial and the provincial government alone cannot cope with their needs.

For this reason a plan should be drawn up to help meet the refugees’ short and long term needs.

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