Pakistan could lose its restive North West Frontier Province (NWFP) to the Taliban because of Islamabad's "blind following" of the US-led global war on terror, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has been warned by his coalition partners.
"The situation in the NWFP is extremely worrisome as Wednesday's meeting of (Pakistan's ruling) coalition partners was warned in plain words that (it) was on a fast track of breaking away from Pakistan because of Islamabad's blind following of Washington's war on terror," The News reported on Friday.
"I am telling you that the Frontier province is breaking away from Pakistan," the newpsaper quoted Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the junior coalition partner Jamiat-ul-Ulama-i-Islam (JUI) as saying during the meeting.
Rehman "did not understand the rationale for putting the integrity of our own country at risk just to please the United States", The News said.
The Awami National Party (ANP)-led NWFP government "too admitted that the local Taliban had extended their influence to most parts of the settled districts, including those surrounding the provincial capital (Peshawar)".
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which leads the country's ruling coalition, is a junior partner in the NWFP government.
A presentation by the Frontier government on the situation in the province, too, "was quite disturbing for those who attended the meeting", the newspaper said.
It quoted a source as conceding that the influence of the Taliban had grown tremendously and now extended to many parts of the settled districts of the province.
"The local Taliban, the meeting was told, had now the capacity to create trouble in the districts of Charsadda, Mardan and Hangu, which surround Peshawar," it said.
During the meeting, representatives of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the estranged, but second largest partner of the country's ruling coalition, "too expressed their complete dissatisfaction over the ongoing policy on the war on terror and urged that there was a dire need for making a national policy to meet the growing threat of extremism and terrorism".
The meeting was told that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's eight-year-old policy of dealing with terrorism with the barrel of a gun had put Pakistan's future at stake.
The PML-N and the JUI asked for an immediate review of Islamabad's policy on the war on terror and insisted that the issue be brought before parliament for a detailed and extensive debate to formulate a homegrown national policy on the issue.
"The meeting agreed that to win the hearts and minds of the people, the political leadership had to take important decisions on the basis of what parliament would suggest for the internal security of the country.
"The issue of extremism and terrorism, the meeting further agreed, should be taken as a case of Pakistan's internal security and be addressed through the policy of engagement, dialogue and administrative steps," the newspaper said.