Fazlullah is alive, says Pakistani military
The Pakistani military has denied reports that Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah had been killed in operations in the troubled northwest.
"High sources in the security forces have denied reports that Maulana Fazlullah had been killed in the ongoing military operations," Geo TV reported.
"The security high-ups said that all the militant commanders including Maulana Fazlullah would be either killed or arrested," the channel added.
North West Frontier Province (NWFP) Interior Minister Iftikhar Hussain had created considerable confusion Thursday by declaring that Fazlullah had been killed in the military operations and simultaneously announcing a bounty of Rs.4 million ($50,000) on his head.
It was Fazlullah's reneging on a controversial peace deal with the NWFP government that had prompted the security forces to go into action April 26 after his fighters moved south from their Swat headquarters to occupy Buner, which is just 100 km from Islamabad.
The operations had begun in Lower Dir, the home district of Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad who had brokered the peace accord and who is Fazlullah's father-in-law, and had later spread to Buner and Swat districts.
Under the peace accord, the Taliban were to lay down their arms in return for the imposition of Sharia laws in Swat, Buner, Lower Dir and four other districts of the NWFP that are collectively known as the Malakand division.
With the military operations entering their 35th day Friday, the military estimates that close to 1,200 Taliban have so far been killed but there is no independent conformation of this as the battle zone is closed to the media.
This apart, no visuals - still or TV - have emerged from the area of operations.
The security forces have lost some 70 personnel.
The military operations have triggered the biggest and fastest civilian exodus in recent times.
The social welfare department of the NWFP has registered some 1.4 million refugees at its specially established camps but the UN estimates the number could be as high as 2.9 million as many of them could be staying with relatives and friends.
The UN estimates that close to $543 million would be required for the relief and rehabilitation of the refugees.