London, June 18 (ANI): To turn the main support base of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan commander Baitullah Mehsud against him, the Mehsud tribesmen, Pakistan has imposed an economic blockade on his mountain stronghold to encourage civilians to flee before a planned ground offensive.
Authorities are also arresting dozens of Mehsud tribesmen and shutting down the businesses of others on the fringes of South Waziristan , according to local officials.
The Times quoted a local intelligence official as saying that the Pakistan Army had blocked all three main roads leading to Mehsud's territory in South Waziristan and allowed only civilians to leave the area.
A member of the Mehsud tribe in the town of Tank, close to South Waziristan, said that his store and dozens of others owned by Mehsuds had been sealed.
"If the Government can't get control of Baitullah and his men, then how can they put pressure on us poor people to control them?" he asked.
Maulana Saleh Shah, a senator and prominent local cleric, told a jirga in Tank that an estimated 100,000 people had fled South Waziristan in the past few days.
South Waziristan is the biggest of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, with a population of about 500,000, most of whom belong to one of two tribes, the Mehsuds and the Wazirs.
Mehsud is said to command 10,000 men from his tribe and has forged a loose alliance with two Waziri commanders - Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan and Hafiz Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan, The Times reports.
The Government now has the support, however, of two rival Mehsud leaders, Qari Zainuddin and Turkistan, and is negotiating with Mullah Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur.
The blockade is designed to isolate Mehsud further as the army prepares for the offensive by pummelling his territory with artillery and airstrikes and moving troops and armour towards the region. (ANI)