The Pakistani army has completed its offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan, but may soon pursue similar operations in other parts of the lawless tribal belt along the Afghan border, the country's prime minister has said.
"The operation has finished in South Waziristan, now there is a discussion of taking it to Orakzai agency," Yusuf Raza Gilani said on Saturday.
Experts said that Gilani's suggestion of an operation in Orakzai was an indication that Pakistan did not deal the death blow it had intended against the Pakistani Taliban by taking them on in their main base in South Waziristan.
They said that even as troops flooded one Taliban stronghold, the fighters had managed to regroup in another stretch of the rugged, barely governed tribal districts.
Pakistan's army launched the South Waziristan offensive in mid-October, saying it was determined to terminate its main internal enemy in its most forbidding stronghold.
"Our government is committed to block their path and preserve a culture of peace and harmony in the country," Gilani said in reference to the Taliban.
In recent weeks, the military has occasionally used helicopter gunships to pound Taliban targets in Orakzai, which could be a prelude to a ground offensive just as they were in South Waziristan.
Orakzai is a smaller tribal region, covering roughly 1,538 sq km and it lies north of South Waziristan, sandwiched between the Khyber and Kurram tribal regions.
Many Taliban fighters are believed to have fled to Orakzai district where at least 40,000 people are estimated to have fled in the weeks since the South Waziristan offensive began, the UN said in a statement on Friday.
The US has long pushed Pakistan to retake spots along the border that have become safe havens for anti-government fighters, a pressure likely to intensify now that 30,000 additional US troops are heading to Afghanistan to take on a resurgent Afghan Taliban.
At least 2,680 people have been killed in Pakistan in attacks blamed on Taliban and its allies since July 2007 and aid groups say that most of the nearly three million Pakistanis who have fled fighting with the Taliban live as refugees.