World | Pakistan

Call to hunt down Taliban cleric

Islamabad wants Afghan forces to prevent cross-border attacks

  • Reuters
  • Published: 00:00 October 18, 2011
  • Gulf News

Islamabad: Pakistan said yesterday that Afghan and US-led forces had failed to hunt down a Taliban cleric responsible for a spate of cross-border raids despite repeated requests from Islamabad, a complaint likely to deepen tension between the neighbours.

The attacks in which militants loyal to Maulvi Fazl Allah took part killed about 100 members of Pakistan's security forces, angering the army which faces threats from multiple militant groups.

"We have given locations and information about these groups to the Afghanistan government and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), but apparently there has been no action," Pakistani army spokesman, Major-General Athar Abbas, said. "The problem refuses to go away."

Fazl Allah was the Pakistani Taliban leader in Swat Valley, about 160 km northwest of Islamabad, before a 2009 army offensive forced him to flee.

Also known as FM Mullah for his fiery radio broadcasts, he regrouped in Afghanistan and established strongholds, and poses a threat to Pakistan once again, said Abbas.

Fazl Allah, a leading figure in the Pakistani Taliban insurgency, is based in Kunar and Nuristan provinces in Afghanistan, said Abbas.

Rugged frontier

He is a prime example of the classic problem faced by Pakistan's military. Militant leaders can simply melt away in the rugged mountainous frontier area in the face of army offensives.

"When they ran away from Swat, Fazl Allah's group was in tatters and was scattered," said Abbas. "They got time and support in Afghanistan."

In Kabul, National Directorate of Security spokesman Lutf Allah Mashal said "terrorist groups usually come from the other side of the border and do some attacks".

"One thing for sure I can say that no one is regrouped or settled here in Afghanistan," he added.

Ties between Kabul and Islamabad, marred by mistrust in the best of times, have been heavily strained in recent months.

First, Afghanistan complained that Pakistan was shelling Afghan border areas in response to militant raids.

More recently, Afghan officials accused Pakistani intelligence of involvement in the suicide bombing assassination of the chief Afghan peace envoy with the Taliban. Pakistan denied the accusation.

"With this new element, friction will increase. The problem is the issue is highly politicised given the state of affairs in the region, with accusations coming from both sides," said Mohammad Amir Rana, director of the Pak Institute of Peace Studies.

"What was simply a border security issue is now politicised, and will impact bilateral relations."

Fazl Allah, who Swat residents said ordered beheadings, public executions and the bombing of girls' schools, is the last thing Pakistan needs.

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