Contextual Content

Pakistan launches offensive

In its first major military offensive, Pakistan’s newly elected government deployed 700 frontier corps troops on Friday, to combat armed fighters of the Lashkar e-Islam group in the Northwest Frontier Province.

According to Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, Maj-Gen Mohammad Alam Khattak of the Frontier Corps, said that “one militant had been killed and a private jail and three other buildings demolished." He added that Pakistani “forces had occupied all heights and clamped a curfew on the region.”

The capital of the Northwest Frontier Province, Peshawar, has been the site of repeated attacks by Lashkar e-Islam, a group affiliated with the Taliban. Most recently, 16 members of a minority Christian community were kidnapped from that city, though they were returned soon afterwards.

Taliban commander Beitullah Mahsud suspended peace talks with the government on Saturday, following the offensive.

Political Scientist, Dr Tariq Amin Khan says the military escalation is the new administration’s way of demonstrating its ability to safeguard Pakistani national interests.

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Story Transcript

REKHA VISWANATHAN (VOICEOVER): In its first major military offensive, Pakistan’s newly elected government deployed 700 frontier corps troops on Friday to combat armed fighters of the Lashkar e-Islam group in the North-West Frontier Province. According to Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, Maj-Gen Mohammad Alam Khatta of the Frontier Corps said that “one militant had been killed and a private jail and three other buildings demolished." He added that Pakistani “forces had occupied all heights and clamped a curfew on the region.” (DAWN – Internet Edition, June 29, 2008.) The capital of the North-West Frontier Province, Peshawar, has been the site of repeated attacks by Lashkar e-Islam, a group affiliated with the Taliban. Most recently, 16 members of a minority Christian community were kidnapped from that city, though they were returned soon afterwards. Taliban commander Beitullah Mahsud suspended peace talks with the government on Saturday, following the offensive. Political scientist Dr. Tariq Amin Khan says the military escalation is the new administration’s way of proving its ability to safeguard Pakistani national interests.

TARIQ AMIN KHAN, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, RYERSON UNIVERSITY: I think what is happening today is the idea that what the Pakistanis call "the writ of the government" needs to be established in the area. And I think this exercise of armed force that’s being used against these people is to really show that the government is capable of taking military action if necessary. It is also giving a message to NATO and the alliance that the US has put together that Pakistan is willing to take military action against the militants, and it is not going to rely solely on negotiations to achieve a peaceful end. The Frontier Corps, which is a paramilitary organization, has taken the initiative to launch the attacks against Lashkar e-Islam in the northern areas, and at the same time, the military has been sort of in the background. I think the idea is that this can be contained at a lower level. I think a military action is necessary, but it has to be done for a very short period of time, possibly maybe a week. But if it exceeds more than, let’s say, seven to ten days, then I think there will be consequences for people of Pakistan generally, because then the militants will not be content to just dealing with the military and the paramilitary, and they will be then coming out into the cities of Punjab and Sindh. So the Pakistani government is walking a very tight line, and they need to be very careful.

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