Friday, June 14, 2024
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Pakistan to restrict Haqqani movement: Report

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Islamabad: With the US stepping up pressure on it to “squeeze” the Haqqani network, Pakistani army is planning measures to restrict the movement of the dreaded terror outfit in areas along the Afghan border as part of an understanding reached with Washington.

The US has been successful in winning Pakistan’s support to curtail the Haqqani network, a Taliban faction blamed for a string of deadly attacks in Afghanistan, The Express Tribune newspaper reported on Wednesday quoting its sources. Two senior unnamed security officials confirmed that the Pakistani military had decided to restrict the movement of all militant groups, including the Haqqani network, and deny them space within Pakistan’s borders.

“We will play our part while coalition forces (in Afghanistan) will stop infiltration from across the border,” said an unnamed Pakistani military official.

The officials refused to provide details of the plan. The report said that the move, if confirmed, would be seen as a departure from the security establishment’s years-old approach towards the Haqqanis.

The US has stepped up pressure on the Pakistani military to go after the Haqqanis, who have bases in the restive North Waziristan tribal region, in the aftermath of the May 2 raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. The report said the change on Pakistan’s part did not mean that the army will “directly confront” the Haqqani network, which Islamabad “believes will have a vital role in any future political dispensation” in Kabul.

Pakistan’s new border security measures are believed to be the result of a deal that was struck during US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Islamabad.

Under the agreement, the US is no longer asking for a full-scale military offensive against the Haqqani network in return for Pakistan’s commitment to “take care” of the group by using means other than an operation.

This includes tightening border security to keep a check on the movement of the Haqqanis and persuading them to come to the negotiating table with the US.

Media reports from Washington have indicated that the Obama administration has adopted a new approach towards the Haqqanis.

The ‘New York Times’ quoted a senior US official as saying that Clinton did not use her meeting in Islamabad to convince the Pakistani military to mount an offensive to root out the Haqqanis and other militants operating from sanctuaries in North Waziristan. “Instead, the administration says, it is pressing the Pakistanis to provide intelligence on the Haqqanis, arrest some of the group’s operatives and reduce ties to the terrorist group — all steps well short of military action,” the official said.

“We’re at the point where Pakistanis have told us they’re going to squeeze the Haqqani network.”

Pakistan’s chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas did not confirm any specific plan to tackle militants but said Pakistan has a stated policy not to allow its territory to be used against any country, including Afghanistan.

Deep in Pakistan’s unruly tribal areas, army engineers protected by soldiers on mountaintops spend hours every morning combing the earth for Taliban bombs before embarking on a special mission.

After determining there is no danger, they use machinery to cut through rugged terrain to build a highway Pakistan hopes will give it an edge over militants by connecting the underdeveloped region to the central economy.

It is one of several ”Quick Impact Projects” designed to win over the population of the restive South Waziristan area, home to some of the most dangerous militant groups in the world.

”When the economy prospers, mindsets change. When there is opportunity for business and commercial activities, people focus on that and less on violence,” said Zahid Raja, spokesmen for the army’s construction and civil engineering wing.

Pakistan has in the past resorted to military offensives in South Waziristan and nearby areas against militants seeking to topple the US-backed government. (Agencies)

But the operations proved to be stop-gap measures at best, and failed to weaken groups like the Pakistani Taliban who seem to carry out suicide bombings at will.

Now the army seems to be adopting a more comprehensive strategy by investing in the highway that will connect South Waziristan to major cities in Pakistan, as well as Afghanistan.

If the project succeeds, it could help the unpopular government gain influence in a restive border region largely neglected since Pakistan was created in 1947.

The Taliban seem to understand the road could pose a threat. They have dispatched suicide bombers to kill engineers and soldiers working on the highway and regularly stage ambushes. (PTI)

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