Pakistan border region becomes terror epicentre

Last Updated: Monday, October 25, 2010 - 18:45

Islamabad: Pakistan will take every possible step to maintain a minimum credible nuclear
deterrence despite economic constraints being faced by the country, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Monday.

Gilani made the remarks during a meeting with Gen Khalid Shamim Wyne, who recently assumed charge as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee.

"Despite economic constraints, the government would not ignore the defence requirements of the country and every possible step would be taken to maintain the level of minimum credible deterrence," the premier said.

He lauded the professional preparedness of the armed forces. Wyne briefed Gilani about his recent visit to South Korea to participate in a chiefs of defence staff conference.

Villagers open up their homes to would-be fighters and suicide bombers heading across the border to kill coalition troops, or heading the other direction into Pakistan`s
heartland to carry out attacks that have shaken the fragile US-allied government in Islamabad.

The threat is also exported far abroad.

Among the thousands of militants holed up in the territory are scores with European or US passports, believed to be planning attacks in Europe and North America. The arrest
of a German in Afghanistan this year revealed a plot hatched in North Waziristan to carry out bloody bombings and shootings in Europe.

It was also to North Waziristan that US resident Faisal Shahzad travelled to train in arms and bombmaking, before attempting to detonate a car bomb in New York City`s
tourist-packed Times Square in May.

Any offensive will be a formidable task. Until 2004, the Pakistani army had not entered North Waziristan, part of Pakistan`s highly autonomous tribal border belt. Even now the
army, with 140,000 soldiers deployed elsewhere in the tribal region, has little presence in North Waziristan.

At their base in the region`s main town, Miran Shah, they rarely patrol.

Some 10,000 foreign militants are in North Waziristan, says Kamran Khan, a parliament member from Miran Shah, a figure that mirrors estimates by US and Pakistani officials.

They are mixed in a cauldron of armed jihadist organisations, including Afghan Taliban, Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda. One of Afghanistan`s deadliest insurgent groups, the
network of Jalaluddin Haqqani, has been headquartered in Miran Shah for three decades.

US and Pakistani intelligence believe they sighted al Qaeda`s No 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, in the territory in 2004 and nearly killed him with a drone strike.

"Everyone is there. There are Arabs, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Indonesians, Bengalis, Punjabis, Afghans, Chechens and the ones they call the white jihadis", meaning European militants,
Khan said, speaking to a news agency in Islamabad.

PTI



First Published: Monday, October 25, 2010 - 18:45

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