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Pakistan military leaders meet PM, president on security situation

June 14, 2011 15:02 IST
In what could be a prelude to a possible operation in North Waziristan against the Al Qaeda militants holed up there, Pakistani military commanders have met with the President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, a move termed by a leading daily in Islamabad as "far from routine".

Pakistan's armed forces have also sought the government's support on a number of issues during the meeting held against the backdrop of increasing domestic and international criticism of the military.

Zardari and Gilani met the entire military leadership, including powerful Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in the presidency on Monday to discuss the "security situation", an official statement said.

However, the meeting was "far from routine" and discussed the political and security implications of a possible military operation in North Waziristan tribal region as is being demanded by the United States, The Express Tribune newspaper quoted its sources as saying.

The chiefs of the armed forces asked the civilian leadership to take up the possible operation in parliament, similar to the effort made when a campaign was launched in the restive Swat Valley two years ago. The meeting also discussed the political, monetary and security implications of such an operation, the report said.

Following the May 2 US raid that killed Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in the garrison city of Abbottabad, the US has pressured Pakistan to launch an operation in North Waziristan Agency, described by Washington as a safe haven for Taliban and al-Qaeda elements that carry out cross-border attacks in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani Army has said it will launch an operation in North Waziristan at a time of its choosing but analysts believe it will be unable to withstand the pressure from the US for long.

Central Investigation Agency chief Leon Panetta's brief visit to Pakistan over the weekend resulted in another downturn in bilateral relations after he reportedly shared evidence of suspected collusion between elements in the Pakistani security establishment and Taliban militants in the tribal areas.

 Some security analysts believe Pakistan might opt for "targeted" operation in North Waziristan instead of an all-out assault but only after the armed forces achieve general consensus and get political backing from the civilian leadership, the daily said.

Monday's meeting also discussed measures to curtail growing criticism of the armed forces by different quarters, the report said.

Political forces, most prominently the Pakistan Muslim League-N and its chief Nawaz Sharif, and civil society have launched scathing attacks on the security forces inside and outside parliament.

An unusually detailed statement issued after an army corps commanders meeting last week called for an end to the criticism of the armed forces. Those who attended yesterday's meeting included Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman General Khalid Shameem Wynne, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Noman Bashir, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman and Secretary Defence Syed Athar Ali.

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