Islamabad, Oct. 9: Following President Musharraf’s claim earlier this week that action against terrorists would continue till the end, the military is gearing up for more operations in the tribal regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Musharraf’s frequent meetings with elders and chieftains are also being seen as an attempt to pre-empt any adverse reaction from the tribal areas. If media reports are any guide, operations are being prepared to flush out Taliban and al Qaida remnants even from the mountainous regions of Chitral and Kohistan, bordering Afghan provinces of Badakhshan and Khost, where authorities suspect militants might be hiding.
These operations follow a crackdown by Pakistani forces yesterday in the south Waziristan agency in which 32 people from the Qarikhel and Desikhel tribes were detained for providing shelter to Taliban and al Qaida fugitives. Several houses were demolished and 20 vehicles seized. The provincial government has reportedly also ordered a social boycott of tribesmen who are reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement agencies.
The situation in south Waziristan after yesterday’s operation remains tense as the authorities are still looking for three men suspected of helping the al Qaida cell. The crackdown was launched when the tribes failed to meet the deadline to hand over the suspects.
In a similar operation last Friday, 12 Taliban and al Qaida suspects were killed and 18 arrested in a fierce gun battle in Angoor Adda in south Waziristan. Those arrested and later shifted to an undisclosed place for questioning included Chechens, Arabs, Turks and Algerians.
According to Azam Khan, administrator of the area, this was done to pressure the tribes to surrender the three suspects. “We gave the tribesmen three days to hand over the culprits. The deadline has passed,” Syed Anwar Shah, deputy administrator of the town of Wana, said, hours before the crackdown started in several areas of the tribal rim bordering Afghanistan.