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Pakistan Taliban moves to Punjab province

May 19, 2010 02:08 IST

The Pakistan Taliban is rapidly making inroads into the Punjab province despite contradictory claims by the Shahbaz Sharif government.

While all the media attention is on other militant-infested areas in Pakistan, the terror activities in the Punjab province – Pakistan's most populous region -- often go unnoticed.
The drone attacks in tribal areas have forced the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan militants to move to comparative safer areas like Jhang and other districts of central and south Punjab.

A militant in Waziristan said, "Having come under uninterrupted drone attacks and military offensive, the militants realized it is time to shift to urban areas. At the moment, Punjab is the best place to hide in. Some key members of Punjabi Taliban, who earlier trained new comers from Punjab in Waziristan, are now in Southern Punjab and are busy in their business."

There are geographical reasons too, argues Syeda Abida Hussain, a politician in Jhang district.

"Jhang is around 200 km away from Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan. So it is not difficult for Taliban to migrate quickly," she said.

Asked about the possible solution to the problem, she added, "The writ of the government is the key. There should be zero-tolerance policy for people involve in sectarianism or Talibanisation."

Asked if a military operation is an option, she said, "There is no need for a military operation like Swat or Waziristan, but the government should arrest leaders indulge involved in such activities. Armed offensive could further disturb the peace in the area."

There are allegations that the administration is protecting the Taliban militants.

Quickly denying such charges, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) spokesperson Sadeequl Farooq said, "People who says that PML-N is protecting Taliban want to malign our government. The success that Punjab government achieved against the terrorists in the province is exemplary. There is no Ranger force deployed, still the police are very successful in their move against militants."

This province has produced a number of hardcore militants leaders like late Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, the founder of Sipahi Sahaba Pakistan (SSP); Maulana Masood Azhar, the head of Jaish-e-Mohammad; Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.

Tahir Ali in Islamabad