Pak army chief to lead military effort in restive NWFP

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Islamabad, Jun 26 (UNI) A high-level meeting chaired by Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani here took stock of the deteriorating security situation in the restive Northwestern Frontier Province and authorised Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to lead military effort in this regard.

An official announcement issued after the meeting last evening said, ''Although the Frontier Corps, the NWFP, and the law enforcement agencies would be the instruments of the governor and the chief minister in their respective jurisdictions for law and order, they would fall under the Army Chief's command for military operations.'' Attended by Gen Kiyani, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director-General Maj-Gen Nadeem Taj and top federal and provincial officials, the meeting resolved that the country would not allow its territory to be used against other countries, especially Afghanistan, and under no circumstances would foreign troops be allowed to operate inside Pakistan.

The meeting was held against the backdrop of growing militancy and fears of local Taliban capturing cities and towns in the NWFP and tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.

Dawn newspaper reported yesterday that with militants knocking at the gates of the NWFP capital, even the more circumspect government and police officials now grudgingly conceded that Peshawar, too, could fall in a few months.

The paper quoted a senior government official as saying the city was in a state of siege and if it fell, the rest of the districts in the NWFP would fall like ninepins.

''It would be a shame if Peshawar were to fall. It is not Swat.

It is home to the headquarters of the 11th Corps, the paramilitary Frontier Corps, the Frontier Constabulary and the police,'' the official said.

Local Taliban launched fresh efforts to capture small towns in the province to impose their own brand of Islam despite the ongoing peace talks with the new government, which had offered dialogue to militants headed by Baitullah Mehsud.

Mehsud was accused by the previous government of masterminding former premier Benazir Bhutto's assassination in December 2007, a charge denied by the pro-Taliban commander.

UNI XC SYU KP1132

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