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Central & South Asia

Pakistan draws up tough anti-Taliban strategy

Islamabad's first national security policy comes amid attacks on Taliban's bases after bilateral talks were frozen.

Last updated: 26 Feb 2014 17:54
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The new security policy aims to enable faster responses to armed groups' attacks [AP]

Pakistan has moved closer to agreeing its first "counter-terrorism" policy, which the government says bolsters its plans to keep pounding the headquarters of Taliban fighters.

The interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, revealed the "national security policy" in parliament on Wednesday, a day after it was formally approved by the cabinet, ending years of foiled attempts by previous governments to formulate it.

Lack of consensus and political have stymied the formation of a unified set of rules to combat armed groups.

"We have made a significant shift in our policy, now we will react to each and every act of terrorism in the country with an attack on the headquarters of the militants along the Afghan border," Khan said, the Agence-France Press news agency reported.

This shift was already put in play as talks between the government and the Taliban, which began earlier this month, were put on hold following the killing of 23 soldiers on February 16. The overture was replaced by a series of deadly air strikes by Pakistan in the northwest that have left over 100 fighters dead.

Air attacks on tribal regions in North Waziristan have prompted hundreds to flee amid rumours of a nearing full-scale military offensive.

Dialogue

Khan said the shelling would continue alongside efforts to negotiate with the Taliban.

"Whenever there is a strike anywhere, we will target headquarters of the militants and it's because of this new policy that we have been carrying out precise strikes in the tribal areas."

Security forces have arrested a local Taliban commander Qari Anas and his two accomplices from the Swabi Interchange on the Islamabad-Peshawar Highway.

Fighters were holed up near the interchange when the police conducted a raid, security forces told Al Jazeera. After an exchange of fire, the fighters were arrested and weapons were recovered.

Commenting on the status of the dialogue between the government and Taliban representatives, Khan said talks have been put on hold but would "resume anytime soon and both negotiations and targeted strikes will go hand in hand".

The policy document is 100 pages long and is split into three parts, one of which would remain secret, said the minister.

Rapid response

The document designates the National Counter Terrorism Authority as the body that will deal with nationwide intelligence reports.

"We are establishing a rapid response force, which will be fully equipped with helicopters and latest technology to carry out counter terrorism operations," Khan added.

Security experts have long called for rapid response teams to deal with attacks in crowded urban environments and track down fighters.

Since 2007 the Pakistani Taliban have been waging a bloody campaign against the Pakistani state which has claimed thousands of lives.

The umbrella armed group was founded in response to a raid on a radical mosque in Islamabad, but violence in the country began surging after the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Political and military analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi told AFP the new policy was ambitious and comprehensive but its implementation "remains an open question".

"They have not left out anything, it's an all-inclusive package, but has the government the financial, administrative and political capacity to implement it?" he said

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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