Pakistan spy chief briefs lawmakers on horrors of Taliban threat


Islamabad : Taliban militants are using children as fighters and suicide bombers, Pakistan’s new spy chief told lawmakers in a rare briefing on threats posed by Islamic militants in the country’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP), media reports and officials said Thursday.

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Militants are brainwashing innocent children to use them for killing people, Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, who was appointed director general of the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) last week, told the closed-door joint session of parliament’s upper and lower houses the previous day.

Horrifying videos and slides shown during the presentation bore images of children, aged 10 to 14, carrying various sorts of lethal weapons, the Urdu-language Jang newspaper reported.

A female lawmaker fainted when a 10-year-old child was shown cutting a person’s throat with a knife.

Young men were used in a majority of the suicide attacks carried out in the last couple of years across the country, Pasha told parliament.

The briefing, which continued Thursday, was called by President Asif Ali Zardari to build national consensus on the country’s fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, which recently intensified suicide bombings against security troops, public places and the nation’s political leaders.

The ISI chief told the joint house meeting that Pakistan’s military had made enormous sacrifices since it joined the international fight against terrorism following Al Qaeda’s attacks on United States in 2001.

“The lawmakers were informed that 1,368 soldiers were martyred (killed) and 3,348 wounded,” military sources told DPA.

Meanwhile, 581 fighters of Arab and Central Asian origin, believed to be linked with the Al Qaeda network, were eliminated, 311 injured and 330 arrested in actions across the country, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Pakistani security forces carried out several offensives in tribal areas and some districts of NWFP, and killed 2,224 local Taliban militants, injured 1,089 and arrested 2,414 over the last seven years.

The civilian casualties in dozens of suicide or other attacks by militants as well as air air artillery strikes by Pakistani forces were not included in the data.

The closed-chambers briefing is only the third of its kind since 1974 and comes when the nation stands divided on cooperation in the US-led fight against terrorism.

Recent US airstrikes on suspected hideouts of Al Qaeda and Taliban militants have fuelled anger in Pakistan, increasing calls for ending the alliance. Islamists and conservatives are pressing for talks with militants rather than using force against them.

Opposition lawmakers were not completely satisfied with Wednesday’s briefing.

Khurram Dastagir Khan, a lawmaker from former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), said the briefing was “rather superficial as it only gave us a resume of events, but no diagnosis.”

Another PML-N legislator, Ayaz Amir, said questions would be raised during Thursday’s briefing “as to how Pakistan was thrown in this war and which country had brought this fire to our doorsteps.”

“We need to change this policy to come out of the quagmire in which we have been stuck up to now,” he was cited as saying by the English-language Dawn newspaper.