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Pak scrambles fighter jets over cities

Pakistan on Monday scrambled fighter jets over several major cities, including federal capital, in a sign of increased “vigilance” amidst escalating tension between New Delhi and Islamabad over Mumbai terror attacks.

world Updated: Dec 22, 2008 23:01 IST

Pakistan on Monday scrambled fighter jets over several major cities, including federal capital, in a sign of increased “vigilance” amidst escalating tension between New Delhi and Islamabad over Mumbai terror attacks.

The US meanwhile rushed its top military official to Islamabad, second time since the November 26 terror strikes, to defuse tension between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. Washington has been voicing concern over Pakistani leaders’ flip-flops on acting against those involved in Mumbai attacks.

Pakistani jets roared over Islamabad, the nearby garrison city of Rawalpindi and other cities this afternoon as Air Force spokesman Air Commodore Humayun Viqar Zephyr said in a statement: “in view of the current environment, PAF has enhanced its vigilance.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US, Admiral Mike Mullen, who arrived here on Monday on a two-day visit, is scheduled to meet President Asif Ali Zardari and army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday pledged to defend the country, saying: “Pakistani nation is fully united” to face the situation “on the eastern border”.

“The country is in safe hands and we have a highly professional and pro-democracy army. The army and the civilian government are united and we are ready to defend our country,” Gilani told a business function in the port city of Karachi.

Gilani said protecting the life and property of the people of Pakistan was his “priority number one” and the leaders of all parties were united in “support of the country”.

Separately, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar told reporters that Pakistan’s defence is in strong hands.

The armed forces are fully qualified to respond if war is imposed on Pakistan by India, he said.

Mukhtar pointed out that the people of India too will not want war and described as an “election stunt” the Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi’s comments about India giving a “befitting reply” to those responsible for the Mumbai attacks.

“Pakistan’s armed forces are in a position that we can defend ourselves... God forbid that we need to use the nuclear option. It won’t even be conventional (war), there won’t be war... Because no solution emerges from war,” Mukhtar said.