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20 April 2024

Pakistan Taliban warn new government to keep clear

By Agencies


Pakistan militants linked to al-Qaeda warned any incoming civilian government on Sunday that they would strike even more viciously if President Pervez Musharraf's war on terror was continued in tribal areas.

Following last week's inconclusive election, several political parties are in talks to form a coalition big enough for a ruling majority in the National Assembly. How they deal with the militants will be one of their most pressing challenges.

Maulvi Omar, a spokesman for the Pakistan Taliban, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location that any new operation against militants in tribal areas would lead to violence.

"Whoever makes the government, we want to make it clear to them we don't want fighting. We want peace, but if they impose war on us, we will not spare them," he said.

"We don't want political parties to repeat the mistake which Musharraf committed and follow a path dictated by the US."

Musharraf, a key Washington ally in its war on terror, angered many Islamists by sending the army into tribal lands to flush out Pakistani militants and foreign Al Qaeda fighters hiding in the rugged and remote region, bordering Afghanistan.

Many Al Qaeda fighters and other militants fled to Pakistan's tribal areas when US-led forces ousted the Taliban government in Afghanistan after September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Islamist parties ruled the border areas of North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan and were the main opposition in the National Assembly for five years until being swept away in last week's vote by liberal groups led by assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP). (Reuters)