Notwithstanding its top leaders' assertions that they do not want a war, Pakistan continues to withdraw troops engaged in anti-Taliban operations from its troubled northwestern tribal belt for possible redeployment on the Indian border amidst heightened tensions in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.
Hundreds of soldiers were pulled out along with heavy weapons from Bajaur, Mohmand, South and North Waziristan tribal regions since Friday, senior military officials told The News daily.
They said one of the two divisions deployed in Bajaur Agency had been withdrawn.
Residents of Ghalanai, the main city of Mohmand Agency, said they had seen about 20 trucks carrying soldiers out of the semi-autonomous region. Sources in Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan, too said a large number of troops had left the area.
Mohammad Rahman, a resident of Miranshah, said he had seen a convoy of 200 trucks, cannon and tanks leaving the region. Hundreds of troops were also withdrawn from Razmak in North Waziristan, an area close to the main stronghold of Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud.
An official of the Inter-Services Public Relations confirmed that a "limited number of troops had been pulled out".
The move came despite Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani seeking to tone down the rhetoric, saying they do not want a war.