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Pakistan to open second front against Taliban: report


London : Pakistan plans to open a second front against the Taliban in the Waziristan tribal area as early as next month, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

“The army is planning to go into Waziristan, possibly in June, which will involve huge numbers of troops in an attempt to establish some sort of state control over the area,” the Daily Telegraph quoted a source close to the Pakistani military as saying.

The army is currently fighting the Taliban in Swat Valley and two neighbouring districts of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).

The paper said the most likely first target of the operations will be the head of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, whose stronghold is in South Waziristan, which borders Afghanistan.

Mehsud claimed responsibility for an attack on a police training centre outside Lahore in March and has been blamed by former president Pervez Musharraf and the CIA for the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, which he denied.

The paper quoted a senior western diplomat as confirming that the Pakistani government was considering whether to declare an emergency in NWFP and launch an all-out operation against the Taliban.

But it said the seriousness of the Pakistan Army’s intent will be measured by its preparedness to take on more powerful Taliban commanders, such as Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Haqqani is regarded by many senior Pakistani officers as a “strategic asset” through whom Pakistan can retain influence in Afghanistan, the newspaper said.