Pakistan's war against terror

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Islamabad:  The latest siege at Pakistan Army's Headquarters on Saturday once again highlights just what's at stake for Pakistan as militants threaten the country's very existence.

Pakistan military is now carefully monitoring South Punjab, which according to many analysts has become the new frontier of the previously anti-India groups.

"The threat of militant groups' proliferation in South Punjab is overblown. The terrain is very difficult, the area that we see in North of Pakistan. Here in South Punjab, there is no breakdown of governance. As this area is not like the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), it is developed and so easy to keep track of militants. There are government institutions functioning there," said military spokesperson Athar Abbas said.

According to military intelligence, splinter groups of Jaish-e- Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Jhagvi are now cooperating with the Al-Qaida and the Taliban. And there is plenty of money and ammunition available.

"They are all coming from the border areas. We know that the Afghan Army is losing weapons, which are coming from the bordering countries. And then they are purchased from the open market," said Abbas.

But Pakistan keeps on blaming India for the attacks. When asked if there are insinuations that some of these groups are supported or funded by India, Abbas said, "We do have credible information that hostile intelligence agencies are working behind them. They are supporting them, providing them equipment and funding that is required to fight this kind of war. So unless there is a foreign support to locals, they cannot sustain for long this insurgency."

Reports suggest that Al-Qaida has now taken the role of organizing various factions of the Taliban and giving them some leadership. And though attacks have weakened Taliban and Al-Qaida, this war is far from over.

Ripples of Talibanization have now reached previously safe places like Punjab. In a small village in South Punjab, called Mian Channu, an accident at a madrassa two months ago destroyed an entire village.

Over 250 houses were gutted, killing 17 people, most of them children, and injuring hundreds.

The madrassa belonged to a cleric, Master Riaz, who ran an underground terror network. He specialised in making suicide jackets, grenades and rocket launchers.

Riaz told Pakistani authorities that he was connected to the Waziristan Taliban, formerly led by Baitullah Mehsud, through his handler in Punjab, Ilyas Kashmiri, who is an Al-Qaida leader.

According to the government, his group was responsible for a series of bomb blasts in Lahore and they were preparing to assassinate Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

With the PPP government adopting a hardline towards militancy, military operation to cleanse the NWFP of terrorists is on. And the local population has joined in by raising lashkars to counter the resurgent Taliban.

But there is a fear that today's lashkars may turn against the state tomorrow. And as the battle continues, it's the ordinary Pakistani that's paying a heavy price. Over two million people have been displaced and many more continue to wait for peace.

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