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Pakistan’s two-front battle

Under pressure from the US, and already smarting from attacks by militants in different parts of the country, Musharraf has vowed to fight to the very end, reports Kamal Siddiqi.

world Updated: Aug 21, 2007 03:42 IST
Kamal Siddiqi

The army operation in parts of Waziristan, the tribal area in Pakistan where it is alleged that sympathisers of the Al Qaeda and Taliban have found sanctuary, has intensified over the past couple of days with fears that violence will grow further. Over the week, there have been over 40 casualties in this area as the Pakistan authorities and the militants signed a temporary truce to allow a swap of prisoners from both sides. But most observers say that these are temporary measures as a long term solution cannot be possible under the current circumstances.

Under pressure from the US to do more, and already smarting from attacks by militants in different parts of the country, President Pervez Musharraf has vowed to fight to the very end. He calls this a war between the moderates and the extremists. Musharraf also claims that he has the backing of a majority of Pakistanis in this war against terror.

However, hectic efforts are underway by a tribal jirga which is being prompted to bring peace. The initial success in hammering an agreement between the tribals and the government was short lived after the US had serious objections to the agreement. Now the jirga has worked towards temporary truces and also trying to create an atmopshere under which the tribals elders are presssurised into not giving sanctuary to foreign militants. The Governor of the North West Frontier Province, which borders the tribal areas, is the key player from the government side in this agreement.

The army is already angry over the kidnap of its soldiers earlier this month and the subsequent murder of two. There have been repeated suicide attacks by militants of government and military positions and movements. Most predict more violence not only in the tribal areas but also revenge attacks by militants in other parts of the country.

On Sunday, 20 people were killed in fighting in the tribal areas. This included women and children. There are fears that revenge for this, as in the past, will be quick from the militants’ side. Most government installations are already on red alert and there are special precautionary measures in place in Islamabad. Some political analysts argue that the rise in violence will also affect the fate of the forthcoming general elections in the country which are expected to be held later this year or early in 2008.