"Pakistan takes key town from Taliban
By Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad
Published: April 29 2009 08:15 | Last updated: April 29 2009 09:46
Pakistani troops on Wednesday took back control of Dagar, the main town in a key north-western valley at the centre of a fight against Taliban militants as the country’s interior minister vowed to press ahead with the counter-offensive against the Islamists.
Military troops landed by helicopter early in the morning to retake control of Buner valley, a day after helicopter gunships supporters by fighter planes began pounding positions held by Taliban militants. The militants originally moved into Buner last week, then withdraw partially before reinforcing their position again.
“The pattern of the Taliban first stepping in, then leaving, then stepping in again, suggests that they are not looking for conciliation. A hard battle had to be fought in the end,” said a Pakistani defence official.
Rehman Malik, interior minister, said: “We will stop these people at any cost. There is no other option.”
Speaking to the Financial Times, Mr Malik said the threat posed by the militants was part of a “very planned move to destabilise Pakistan.”
In spite of Mr Malik’s strong words, western diplomats said Pakistan still needed to reorient itself toward fighting Islamic militants instead of focusing on India as the primary foe.
The military’s victory in Burner, following earlier advances in the nearby district of Dir, should provide some reassurance to the US and other western government worried over worsening security conditions in the nuclear armed country.
Concern over security conditions have been revived after Islamabad earlier this month approved the institution of Islamic law in the Swat valley adjacent to Buner in response to pressure from Taliban militants after a year of fighting.
A senior government official said on Wednesday that the peace agreement with the Taliban in Swat was “in danger of collapsing.”
Officials from humanitarian agencies including the UN warned that the fighting in the north of the country was likely to displace thousands of people who would be forced to seek refuge elsewhere.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009"