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Taliban rife with jihad recruits
He was referring to the Pakistan Peoples Party, led by Mrs. Bhutto until her Dec. 27 assassination in a suicide attack in Rawalpindi, a suburb of the capital, Islamabad. The party is now led by Mrs. Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, who was elected Pakistan’s president on Saturday.
Mr. Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, also a PPP member, have sought negotiations with the Taliban but also promised to attack its strongholds when talks falter. The Bush administration has criticized Pakistan for not doing enough to stop attacks into Afghanistan by the Taliban and al Qaeda.
“Every nation has an obligation to govern its own territory and make certain that it does not become a safe haven for terror,” Mr. Bush said in a speech to the National Defense University on Tuesday.
Mr. Kiani, the Pakistani Embassy spokesman, said Pakistani jet fighters flew 91 sorties in August alone in Bajaur, the smallest and northernmost of the tribal areas. He said it has deployed more than 120,000 troops in the tribal areas, of whom 1,400 have been killed.
“We are committed to the war on terrorism. It is our own war, and we lost one of our leaders, Benazir Bhutto,in this war against terrorism, and there will be no faltering of resolve on our part,” Mr. Kiani said.
“We will not allow our territory to be used for terrorism against us or any other country, be it Afghanistan, the U.S. or anywhere else.”
At the same time, Mr. Kiani said, Pakistan’s government continues to negotiate with tribal elders and elements that are reconcilable and willing to lay down their arms.
“But we are not going to talk with terrorists,” he said.
The U.S.-Pakistan strategy includes creating so-called reconstruction opportunity zones to provide jobs and other benefits to the tribals living in the border areas.
Umar scoffed at the strategy, saying it was mostly public relations.
During a three-day visit by this reporter to Bajaur, Umar allowed himself to be photographed and even permitted the entire interview to be recorded on video.
The interview was heavily advertised by Pakistan’s Khabrain media group, slated to be published in its newspaper chain and shown on its cable television station before the Pakistani government halted its release. It was made available to The Washington Times as a result.
The interview, conducted in Urdu, was tense at times.
For example, Umar was asked directly: “If your fight is against America and NATO foreigners, why do you kill innocent Pakistanis in suicide attacks?”
Umar replied: “[The] Taliban is going through a tough time, so it has resorted to these attacks. The suicide bombers always target security forces or government officials, but sometimes innocent people also fall victim to it.
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