Lahore/Islamabad, May 13 (ANI): The Human Rights Watch has asked Pakistani military to avoid civilian casualties at any cost during its offensive against the Taliban.
"Beheadings and use of human shields by Taliban forces are not a blank cheque for the Pakistan Army. Winning the war, but also the peace, in Swat can only be achieved by minimizing civilian suffering," the daily Times quoted HRW's Asia director Brad Adams, as saying.
People fleeing the Swat valley into Mardan also confirmed the reports of the destruction of property in the military's aerial bombardment. Local journalists have left the area, and the army is not permitting other reporters to enter. The area is under indefinite curfew.
IDPs told the HRV that the Taliban have mined parts of the valley, and were preventing residents from leaving Mingora.
The HRW also learnt that on May 10, the Taliban shot and killed Maulana Zahid Khan, prayer leader of the Nishat Chowk mosque, for objecting to the use of landmines and stockpiling of arms.
"The Taliban have perpetrated and continue to inflict heinous abuses upon the people of Swat and need to be held accountable. It is absolutely essential that this barbarism is halted and the rule of law re-established," said Adams.
Power and telephone links to the rest of the country have been severed since April 28. The displaced people have also reported food shortages.
The agency asked the international agencies to provide immediate financial and logistical support to address the humanitarian crisis caused by the fighting.
The HRW also urged the US to ask Pakistan to follow the war rules.
"The United States has urged Pakistan to find a military solution to the Taliban. It must also send the message that the laws of war must be followed and civilians protected," Adams said.
About half a million people in the NWFP had been displaced before the recent fighting began. This number is expected to double. (ANI)