Pakistan vowed on Monday to target Taliban leaders and deal a killer blow to the Islamists as it pressed a major offensive Western military chiefs said was key to regional stability.
The army said 78 militants had been killed in the operation which presents the military with its biggest challenge yet in the war against the hardliners.
But concerns are mounting that the assault in South Waziristan will spark another refugee crisis ahead of heavy snow in a bitterly cold winter.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Pakistan was determined to deliver a “decisive blow” against the Taliban in the tribal district.
Ground forces have massed on the western, eastern and northwestern flanks of Kotkai, the hometown of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Hakimullah Mehsud and key Taliban leader Qari Hussain, readying for an assault.
“The high-level targets are the leadership," said Major General Athar Abbas, the army's chief spokesman.
Pakistan is also airdropping leaflets urging the leading Mehsud tribe among the ranks of the Taliban to rise up against the militants and fight alongside the army.
Copies of the open letter from army chief of staff General Ashfaq Kayani, headed with his picture, the Pakistani flag and military flag, were handed out to journalists at a news conference in Islamabad.
Meanwhile, Pakistani police have claimed to have foiled a major terror attack in Karachi and arrested a top Taliban leader. “Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s Karachi unit chief Akhtar Zaman was arrested along with three accomplices from Sohrab Goth area of Karachi,” city police chief Waseem Ahmed said.