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Govt warns of military operation in North Waziristan

* Defence minister says action to take course if miscreants not expelled within deadline


ISLAMABAD: Military action would take its course immediately after the expiry of the deadline given by the government to the tribesmen in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) if adequate steps are not taken to ensure peace in the area, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said on Saturday.
“The ball is now in the court of the Taliban and tribesmen,” Asif said in a conversation with Daily Times on Saturday. He was referring to the deadline given by the ruling civilian leadership and the army command to the tribal elders of the NWA on Friday. “Our soldiers are getting martyred and blood of the innocent is being spilled. We can’t let the things go on like that. If the deadline gets past and there are no concrete measures for peace, there will be action,” the minister warned.
A 64-member tribal jirga (delegation) comprising of the elders from Wazir and Dawar tribes separately met Peshawar Corps Commander Lieutenant General Khalid Rabbani and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Sardar Mehtab Abbasi in Peshawar on Friday. The tribesmen were told that they needed to play their role to bring peace in NWA by means of getting the foreign militants expelled from the NWA, asking them to return to the countries they came from.
“The tribal people are best accustomed to the tribal practices, norms and traditions. It’s now up to them how they manage to get the militants ousted from the NWA. We have tried our best to restore peace through dialogue. But the peace process has not been working which is making it necessary that the force has to be exercised against the terrorists for the restoration of peace.” 
To a query, the defence minister said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has given the military complete authority to take decisions for the restoration of the writ of the state in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas). “The PM is completely in the loop and fully aware of the situation. The military authorities brief him on a regular basis. What measures the security forces take to eliminate terrorism is something that completely rests with them. It’s part of the operational secrecy. The armed forces have the complete backing of the government.”
Sources in the FATA Secretariat said the security forces were not restricting the people from moving across the border from NWA in order to allow the miscreants to leave the tribal agency. “There have been reports that the troublemakers are moving across the border in the garb of civilians to avoid an imminent military action. This omens well for us. We want the terrorists to return where they came from,” said a senior official at the Secretariat. 
NWA Political Agent Siraj Ahmad Khan, when approached, said that the displacements from NWA to the Afghan side of the border was underway mainly because hundreds of families in the tribal agency had their relatives across the border. “This is a closely knitted tribal society and people have family connections stretching across the border which is why people from the NWA are moving to the bordering area of Khost in Afghanistan. The displaced tribal people prefer living with their kith and kin and not in the camps, so they move to alternate areas wherein their relatives are based,” he said. 
To a question, Khan said the security forces were keeping a strict check at the Pak-Afghan border to stop any movement from Afghanistan to Pakistan. “We are not stopping anyone to move across the border but certainly we have to keep a check on movement from Afghanistan into our area because we have credible information that militants are trying to sneak into Pakistani areas to unleash violence. 
“The people who have left the NWA and went across the border moved out of their free will. But their return to Pakistan would not be without proper check and scrutiny.” Amid continuing militant violence by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), several Pakistan Army men, including two lieutenant colonels, have lost their lives in terror attacks in the recent days.

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