Interior ministry chief Reham Malik is now in line for promotion to Captain Obvious.
ISLAMABAD “” Pakistan’s top security official Monday admitted that al Qaida’s leadership moved freely in and out of the country and vowed that “no mercy” would be shown to extremists based in its tribal territory that borders Afghanistan.
In the past, Pakistan has been heavily criticized for rejecting evidence that al Qaida was largely based in the country and for denying that the tribal territory was used as a safe haven for Afghan insurgents.
Rehman Malik , the interior ministry chief, revealed that al Qaida deputy leader Ayman al Zawahiri and his wife had been in Mohmand, part of the tribal area. Most of time, Malik said Zawahiri was mainly in Afghanistan’s Kunar and Paktia provinces. […]
Extremist groups in Pakistan launched a vicious campaign of suicide bombings last year, aimed at both military and civilian targets. The attacks are thought to be directed by al Qaida.
Predictable deflection of responsibility (note the use of passive voice) and calls for “dialogue”:
But Malik called for more action from other countries too. He said that the al Qaida “syndicate” was allowed to operate across the region, from Iraq to the Philippines and “free passage was given to them” to come to Pakistan . “We need a regional dialogue,” he added.
In another break from Pakistan’s recent approach, the interior ministry chief, said that Islamabad planned to use the tribes in its border area to fight the extremists, indicating that a 15,000-strong militia of volunteers would be assembled.
The move would ape the success of the U.S. approach in Anbar Province in Iraq , where Sunni tribes were armed and paid to fight al Qaida in Iraq and other Sunni extremists.
Malik said that in Bajaur, a part of the Pakistan’s tribal territory, the Salarzai tribe had raised its own force, known as a “lashkar”. Moderate tribesmen are wary of resisting the extremists because of a lack of back up from the Pakistan state. “They (tribes) were left high and dry before, it’s true,” Malik conceded. […]
He also conceded that the fighters “operate on both sides” of the border. Malik’s remarks came amid signs that Washington is more comfortable with Islamabad’s role in the anti-terror fight, after years of accusing Pakistan of not doing enough and being too ready to enter into peace negotiations with the militants.
“We either hand over Pakistan to these Taliban or we fight back,” Malik said. “I can assure you that they (the militants) are on the run, either they can surrender or die.”
Tell that to the residents of Peshawar.
It is not just rhetoric this time, analysts said. In recent weeks, Pakistan has launched military offensives in two parts of the tribal territory, Khyber and Bajaur, and in the neighboring area of Swat. Over the weekend, Malik announced a ceasefire in Bajaur, to mark Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims. On Monday, responding to criticism that this would give the extremists breathing space, he stressed that the truce would only last a month and the security forces would crack down on any militant activity during that period.
Seeing is believing.