World Bulletin/News Desk
Pakistan denied reports about deepening divisions between the civilian government and the army on Saturday and said it had yet to decide whether to call off attempts to engage Pakistani Taliban in peace talks.
On Friday, Reuters quoted a government insider as saying that during a tense meeting this week, Pakistan's powerful army chief told Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that the time for talks with the Taliban was over.
Sharif came to power a year ago promising to find a peaceful settlement and has put talks at the heart of his security policy.
But as round after round of talks failed, the army started to lean towards a military solution in the troubled North Waziristan region where the militants are holed up.
Pakistani media almost never report on the often difficult relationship between the civilian government and the army.
In a statement on Saturday, the Interior Ministry said there was no tension with between the government and the military.
"Clarifying the situation the (Interior) Minister said the meeting was held in a highly congenial and positive atmosphere in which wide-ranging issues pertaining to national security including the situation on our borders was discussed," it said.
"No decision for a full scale military operation in North Waziristan was taken," the ministry quoted the minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, as saying.
"There was no decision to call off the dialogue process, nor was any such demand made from either side as reported by the news agency," he added.
Nisar brushed aside reports that government forces were set to launch a military onslaught on North Waziristan following attacks on security forces in different parts of the restive tribal belt along the border with Afghanistan.
"The ongoing limited air strikes in North Waziristan are the outcome of an earlier decision taken by the government to respond to any terrorist attack on security forces accordingly," he said.
The day after the meeting, Pakistani forces launched rare air strikes against militants holed up in the remote, lawless tribal belt on the Afghan border.
Then on Thursday, they backed that up with the first major ground offensive against the Taliban, putting the military, which has a long record of intervening in civilian rule, firmly back at the centre of Pakistan's security policy.
The flare-up of air strikes has reportedly caused widespread destruction in Mir Ali, the second largest town of North Waziristan. Locals claim that most of the people killed in shelling have been "common citizens."
In retaliation, the Taliban hit a military convoy with a landmine blast in Mohmand agency, one of the seven semi-autonomous tribal areas in Pakistan, on Saturday morning, killing six soldiers.
Pictures of children and elderly men allegedly killed in fresh air strikes went viral on social media, prompting politicians to express concern over reports regarding deaths of civilians in the operation.
Queues of wagons and cars loaded with passengers and household goods were seen on Bannu-Miranshah road as people tried to take refuge in the nearby Bannu district as the administration lifted a four-day curfew Saturday.
The fresh operation, experts believe, has decreased chances of an immediate breakthrough in peace talks between the Taliban and the government, which aim to bring a negotiated end to an 11-year long fighting that has already killed thousands of people.
Last Mod: 25 Mayıs 2014, 10:47