Pakistan's committment to fight extremists in tribals areas questionable: NYT

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Islamabad, Feb.12 : The announcement of a cease-fire just a few weeks into a determined military operation against one of Pakistan's most wanted men, the militant leader Baitullah Mehsud, has once again raised questions about Pakistan's commitment to combat militancy in the country's tribal areas.

According to a report in the New York Times, Pakistani analysts fear the cease-fire is reminiscent of past deals that allowed militants to regroup and fortify their strongholds for the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The cease-fire announcement follows three weeks of intensive fighting that began in a mountainous part of South Waziristan on January 16, when security forces mounted a large-scale offensive against Mehsud and his forces.

Clashes apart, the army also imposed a debilitating economic blockade, coupled with a three-pronged operation to box in Mehsud and his militants.

According to the NYT, the blockade was so effective that for weeks little information about the campaign emerged from the area.

With acting Interior Minister, Hamid Nawaz Khan, suggesting days earlier that the military operation is bearing fruit and that the militants are on the run, the reasons behind the government's reversal remain unclear.

Brigadier (retired) Mehmood Shah told the paper that any cease-fire or peace deal with Mehsud would be counter-productive.

"The army should not be doing a deal, and in the case that they are, it would be a mistake," he said.

The cease-fire now fits a pattern of what has been an uneven approach to the problem of militancy by the government since its forces entered the tribal areas in 2002, first trying military operations that resulted in high casualties, then suing for peace.

The deal has rankled some within the military and United States has already voiced reservations about any further deal-making.

ANI

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