Gilani warns of Taliban retaliation across Pakistan
The gruesome car bombing in Peshawar Friday was not entirely unexpected and the Taliban could attempt to stage more such attacks in retaliation to the military operations being conducted against them in Pakistan's restive northwest, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said here Saturday.
"Such barbaric acts were expected as an aftermath or result of the action against the militants," he told reporters here after inaugurating a medical and dental college.
"There are intelligence reports that terrorists can carry out attacks in any part of the country as a reaction (to the anti-Taliban military operations in the North West Frontier Province)," Gilani added.
At the same time, he expressed the government's determination to "stamp out" terrorism, saying the militants "cannot hold us hostage through such cowardly acts".
At least 10 people were killed and over 70 injured, many critically, when a car bomb exploded outside a packed cinema hall outside NWFP capital Peshawar Friday evening.
While no group owned responsibility, a spokesman of the province's ruling Awami National Party (ANP) linked it to the security forces' operations in Swat and two other NWFP districts that the military says has so far resulted in the elimination of some 1,100 militants.
The military had gone into action April 26 after the Taliban, in violation of a controversial peace accord with the NWFP government, moved south from their Swat headquarters to occupy Buner, which is just 100 km from Pakistani capital Islamabad.
The operations had begun in Lower Dir, the home district of Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad, who had brokered the peace accord with the NWFP. They later spread to Buner and Swat.
The military action has triggered a mass civilian exodus from the three districts, with 1.45 million refugees being registered at the relief camps set up by the provincial government. The actual number of displaced could be as high as 2.5 million, with many of them taking shelter with friends and relatives.
The Pakistani government is now planning to send the military into South Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the border with Afghanistan to tackle militancy in the region.
Asked about this Saturday, Gilani said: "Maintenance of law and order is basically duty of provincial governments and if government's writ is challenged in any area then the concerned provincial government requisitions the military for its assistance."