Window on Pak Press: ‘Taliban fighters moving towards Islamabad’

12 02 2009

Source: India today

As an old adage goes ‘you reap what you sow’, Pakistan is now terrified over the threat from Taliban. The News reported on Wednesday that the local Taliban leadership has decided to send its fighters to Islamabad as a reaction to the operations in Darra Adam Khel and Swat Valley and in this regard chalking on the walls of Islamabad are already appearing, forcing the Islamabad administration to whitewash these messages quickly.

Many religious scholars in Islamabad, the leading daily The News and Urdu daily Jang said, have also received messages from the Taliban that they have only two options, either to support the Taliban or leave the capital or they will be considered collaborators of the ‘pro-American Zardari government’ which, they claim, is not different from the previous Musharraf regime.

Taliban threat coincided with US President Barack Obama saying that he has sent his special envoy Richard Holbrooke to Islamabad with a message that the terrorists, who threaten the United States, also threaten Pakistan. In his first prime-time news conference as president, Obama sent forceful message to Pakistan: “Washington seeks a closer relationship with Islamabad, but there can be no compromise on the issue of terrorism.”

“There is no doubt that in the Fata region of Pakistan, in the mountainous regions along the border of Afghanistan, that there are safe havens where terrorists are operating,” he said.

“It’s not acceptable for Pakistan or for us to have folks who, with impunity, will kill innocent men, women and children,” he declared.

President Obama said that he has tasked his special envoy, now in the region, “to deliver a message to Pakistan that they are endangered as much as we are by the continuation of those operations.”

Besides, India asking Pakistan if it needed any help in the investigation into 26/11 Mumbai attack probe and Pakistan and the United States agreeing to jointly review the policy to counter extremism and terrorism to ensure peace in the region, dominated the Pakistan media on Wednesday. Several papers including Daily Times quoted India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee criticising Pakistan on Tuesday for leaking reports to the media concerning its investigation into the Mumbai attacks, saying Islamabad should have communicated any information through official channels.

Meanwhile, The Nation on Wednesday morning said, “India, Pak keen on South Asia trade; mum on bilateral ties”. The paper said India and Pakistan came together on a SAARC platform, discussing ways to mitigate the impact of the global downturn on the South Asian region, even as the two neighbours have snapped bilateral trade talks after the Mumbai attacks. As the commerce secretaries of the eight-nation South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) met in New Delhi, officials from both India and Pakistan remained focused on giving a boost to the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), but remained silent on bilateral ties even on the sidelines.

“We are at the moment talking about SAARC. I think it is important to concentrate on the matters in hand … Multilateral forums are very important and we need to strengthen those,” Pakistan Commerce Secretary Suleiman Ghani said when asked about the fate of India-Pakistan trade ties.

Presiding over the meeting of the Committee on Economic Cooperation, Commerce Secretary G.K. Pillai said, “Our resolve to initiate the review of the sensitive list is a pleasant (happening) in a depressing regional environment.”

This is for the first time that trade officials from Pakistan travelled to India after the Mumbai attacks in November. Officials agreed to work on pruning their sensitive lists to enable increased trade flow under SAFTA.

Daily Times also reported that a three-member team of the Indian Crime Branch investigating the Mumbai carnage has left for the US to meet FBI officials and share details of their investigation, a private TV channel reported on Tuesday. The channel quoted an unidentified Indian police official as saying that the team headed by Additional Commissioner of Police Deven Bharti had left for the US on Monday night. “They will discuss and share the details of the probe and also take input from officials of the FBI,” he said. The police team is likely to spend a week in the US. Meanwhile, Daily Times said Hindustan Times quoted unidentified sources in the Indian Crime Branch as saying that the investigators would collect, analyse and finalise the evidence gathered on the Mumbai case by both agencies in order to compile a comprehensive chargesheet.

The News reported that Pakistan and the United States on Tuesday agreed to jointly review the policy to counter extremism and terrorism to ensure peace in the region. It was the crux of meetings of the visiting US Special Representative Richard Holbrooke with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday.

Holbrooke agreed with Pakistan’s proposal to form a parallel group to review the new US strategy towards Afghanistan, Pakistan and terrorism. In the meeting held in the Presidency, US Ambassador Anne W Patterson, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Information Minister Sherry Rehman, Law Minister Farooq H Naek and Adviser to PM on Finance Shaukat Tarin were also present.

Besides terrorism and extremism, the meeting discussed the regional situation in the wake of the Mumbai incident, the Kashmir issue and the situation in Afghanistan. According to sources, during the meeting, President Asif Ali Zardari presented some new proposals for peace in the region. But it was the Taliban threat that attracted attention. The News went on to say that it was also surprising that the Taliban of Swat and Bajaur have included the names of some religious and Jihadi leaders, who are not ready to fight inside Pakistan against their own countrymen, in their hit lists.

The Taliban have accused some militant leaders of the tribal areas and some leaders of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkatul Mujahideen and Hizbul Mujahideen of trying to stop youngsters from fighting the Pakistani forces. Taliban have declared all these “pro-Pakistan” Jihadis as their enemies.

The names of Maulvi Nazir from South Wazirastan, Hafiz Gul Bahadur from North Waziristan, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Maulana Farooq Kashmiri and Syed Salahudin have been included in the hit lists of the Taliban, who have threatened some Hizbul Mujahideen leaders in Swat and Dir to leave the areas as soon as possible.

Another Taliban leader in the Mohmand Agency Maulvi Omar Khalid has threatened boys belonging to the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba to leave the tribal agency or face death. Omar Khalid has claimed that these boys are only interested in fighting against the foreign troops in Afghanistan or against India, which means that they don’t want an Islamic government in Pakistan.

“This complicated situation has forced the government to take some extreme steps against the Taliban in Darra Adamkhel and Swat, who had killed a Polish engineer as a reaction to the operations in their areas,” the paper said.

“Some diplomatic sources have revealed that initially Pakistan was ready to release some arrested Taliban fighters in exchange for the abducted Polish and Chinese engineers but the US authorities raised objections and a deal could not be finalised,” the paper said.

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