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No more negotiations with Taliban, says Pak PM Gilani

With the Swat peace deal in tatters, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has ruled out the possibility of further negotiations with the Taliban in the valley and said militants will be dealt with sternly.
By HT Correspondent | PTI, Islamabad
UPDATED ON MAY 07, 2009 08:33 PM IST

With the Swat peace deal in tatters, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has ruled out the possibility of further negotiations with the Taliban in the valley and said militants will be dealt with sternly. Chairing a meeting of his cabinet on Wednesday, Gilani sent out a "clear message" that the militants will be "crushed with full force" and not given any relaxation as peace had not been restored even after the government implemented the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation for enforcing Shariah or Islamic law in Swat. "The writ of the government will be established without listening to these elements from now onwards," Gilani was quoted as saying by The News daily.

"Once the law-enforcers are given directives to use massive force, no one can take the law in his own hands". A cabinet minister told The News: "The armed Taliban would be dealt with sternly rather than accepting their new demands or pressure".

An official statement quoted Gilani as telling the meeting that "all resources are being mobilised to check the menace of extremism and terrorism as it is seriously affecting economic progress and political stability in the country".

Gilani also said that the government will soon invite the chief cleric of the holy city of Makkah to visit Pakistan and "preach the true face of Islam, which strongly abhors suicide bombings that indiscriminately" kill people.

Nearly 50 militants have been killed in fierce fighting between security forces and the Taliban in Swat and a nearly three-month-old peace deal in the region has virtually fallen apart.

Artillery, gunship helicopters and jets are being used to target militant positions.

Tens of thousands of people have fled the valley located just 160 km from Islamabad and the North West Frontier Province government has estimated that up to half a million people could be displaced by the fighting.

During yesterday's cabinet meeting, Tourism Minister Ataur Rehman said the law of the land "does not seem to exist" in Swat. He also expressed concern at the spread of the Taliban despite the ongoing operation by security forces. Another cabinet minister told the meeting that the Taliban had planted numerous mines and improvised explosive devices in the populated areas of Swat to stop people from leaving their homes so that the militants could use them as human shields.

The minister also said he had learnt from his sources in Swat that the delay in action against the Taliban had enabled them to mine various areas and gain in strength.

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