Pakistan under pressure for action against Taliban

Updated: 2014-01-22 10:55


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ISLAMABAD -- The latest wave of militant attacks in Pakistan has led to calls on the government to launch a major offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in the restive North Waziristan tribal region, their last stronghold.

A Taliban suicide car bomber hit a convoy of security forces in the northwstern Bannu district, killing 22 soldiers and injuring 30 others on Sunday. A day later, a Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up near a checkpoint jointly manned by police and army close to the army's headquarters in Rawalpindi, killing six soldiers and seven civilians.

The Taliban also declared war on the media and killed three staffers of a major media group in the port city of Karachi last week.

Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid quickly claimed responsbility for all recent attacks and vowed to continue attacks.

The recent attacks have prompted widespread anger and calls for a decisive action against the Taliban in North Waziristan where they are believed to be planning attacks. The tribal region bordering Afghanistan has also been the focus of the US drone strikes as Americans say the militants use North Wazirtistan as launching pad for cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.

Opposition senators joined hands on Monday to press the government for a major push against Taliban. Senators from three major opposition groups -- Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Awami National Party (ANP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) criticized the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for inaction and demanded a major miltary operation against Taliban.

The government, which had earlier been in favour of peace talks with the Taliban, is now in a fix as there is no let up in terror attacks. The Taliban leaders are unwilling to clearly accept the dialogue offer and have rejected calls for a halt to their attacks.

Nawaz Sharif, after assuming office in June 2013, had announced to pursue peace talks with the Taliban to end the bloodshed but the process was derailed at the start by US drone strike in November last year which killed the Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud.

The Taliban retaliation spoiled atmosphere for any peace dialogue at least in the near future as support for a possible major military action ran high. Some Islamic groups however still insist on peace process.

The security forces, backed by gunships, have shelled the suspected hideouts of the militants in North Waziristan over the past two days. Security sources said that dozens of militants were killed during the strikes in Mir Ali area of North Wazirtistan. It is believed that the targeted operation could lead to a major offensive if the Taliban continued attacks.