ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Political tension is rising in nuclear-armed Pakistan with wrangles over old corruption charges against President Asif Ali Zardari, some top aides and several thousand others, most of them bureaucrats.
Opposition politicians have been calling for Zardari to resign since the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down an amnesty that protected him and the others from charges.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Rumors of a Pakistan coup sparked by a government minister being barred from leaving the country were dismissed on Friday after briefly causing flutters in financial markets.
Political tension has risen in Pakistan since the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down an amnesty that protected President Asif Ali Zardari, several of his ministers and thousands of others from corruption charges.
By Robert Birsel
(Reuters) – A suicide car bomber attacked an office used by Pakistan’s main intelligence agency in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Friday, killing nine people and wounding 55.
The city, near the Afghan border, has been targeted several times since the army began an offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan on October 17 and militants stepped up retaliatory attacks.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton patched up ties with uneasy ally Pakistan on her recent visit but strains are likely to intensify over Afghan insurgent factions fighting out of Pakistani border enclaves.
Clinton praised Pakistan’s offensive against Pakistani Taliban fighters in the South Waziristan region near the Afghan border, and unlike previous U.S. visitors, she did not, at least publicly, demand that Pakistan do more on militancy.
By Robert Birsel
(Reuters) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Pakistan on Wednesday promising a new page in relations and several civilian investment deals.
Here are some questions and answers about U.S.-Pakistani relations:
WHY IS PAKISTAN IMPORTANT FOR THE UNITED STATES?
Pakistani support is crucial for the United States as it strives to defeat al Qaeda, capture its leaders and bring stability to Afghanistan.
By Robert Birsel
(Reuters) – Pakistan’s army began on Saturday a ground operation against Pakistani Taliban militants in the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border, a senior government official said.
The government in June ordered the army to launch an offensive in South Waziristan. Since then the military has been conducting air and artillery strikes to soften up the militants’ defences and blockading the region.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – A suicide bomber killed 41 people in an attack on a Pakistani military convoy passing through a market on Monday as the Taliban claimed responsibility for a weekend raid on the army’s headquarters.
Militant attacks have intensified over the past week as the army prepares to launch a ground offensive on the al Qaeda-linked fighters’ South Waziristan stronghold.
WASHINGTON/ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Under President Barack Obama, the pace of strikes by pilotless “drone” aircraft on insurgents in Pakistan is rising and could pick up further after a White House review of regional war strategy.
There have been 39 drone strikes in Pakistan since Obama took office not quite nine months ago, according to a Reuters tally of reports from Pakistani security officials, local government officials and residents.
ISLAMABAD, Oct 12 (Reuters) – Pakistani aircraft attacked Taliban militants in their South Waziristan stronghold near the Afghan border as the government said a ground offensive against the al Qaeda-linked fighters was imminent.
The aircraft struck the militants late on Sunday, hours after commandos stormed an office building and rescued 39 people taken hostage after an attack on the army headquarters.
"The jets hit and destroyed two of their hideouts in Makeen and Ladha and we have a total of about 16 militants killed," a Pakistani intelligence official in the region said.
Pakistani Taliban militants linked to al Qaeda have launched numerous attacks on government and foreign targets over the past couple of years killing hundreds of people. [ID:nISL512917]
The military has been conducting air and artillery strikes in south Waziristan for months, while moving troops, blockading the region and trying to split off militant factions.
But a ground offensive, in what could be the army’s toughest test since militants turned on the state, has yet to begin.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Reuters in an interview in Singapore the offensive was "imminent".
"There is no mercy for them because our determination and resolve is to flush them out," Malik said. "They have no room in Pakistan, I promise you."
Malik said members of the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda were suspected to have been behind Saturday’s attack on army headquarters in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, which ended a week when suicide bombers struck in the capital Islamabad and Peshawar, killing more than 50 people.
Security officials said there appeared to be links between the attackers, who were disguised in army uniforms, and militant groups based in Punjab province.
But Malik said it was too early to to say whether those groups were involved. (See [ID:nL0166893] for an analysis of the danger posed by the groups, [ID:nISL488154} for a report from the region and [ID:nISL469234] for a factbox)
STOCKS NOT DENTED
Malik said the offensive against the militants in South Waziristan was no longer a matter of choice.
"It is not an issue of commitment, it is becoming a compulsion because there was an appeal from the local tribes that we should do the operation," he said.
About 28,000 troops have been put in place to take on an estimated 10,000 hard-core Taliban, army officials said earlier.
Investors in Pakistan’s main stock market <.KSE> were unperturbed by the weekend of violence outside the army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) in which nine gunmen, eight soldiers and three hostages were killed.
"The market discounted the GHQ thing completely today," said Ashraf Zakaria, a dealer at brokers Ali Hussain Rajabali and Co.
The main index was 0.02 percent lower at 9,766.31 at 0533 GMT.
"The matter was resolved very quickly and the efficient way that things were handled made sure that investor confidence was not dented," Zakaria said.
Security around the headquarters, and in the nearby capital, is very tight but analysts say it is very difficult to guard against gunmen disguised as security force members who are prepared to kill anyone who challenges them, and to be killed.
The gunmen were stopped at a main gate and did not get into the headquarters.
An offensive in South Waziristan would not have a long-term effect on the market as investors felt concrete action was necessary, dealers said.
Early on Monday, aircraft also attacked militants in the Bajaur region, about 250 km (150 miles) northeast of Waziristan, government officials in the region on the Afghan border said.
"Two jets have been bombing militant hideouts in areas very close to the Afghan border. They’ve made several sorties," said one official who declined to be identified.
There was no information on casualties in the latest attacks. (Additional reporting by Faisal Aziz, Sahibzada Bahauddin and Hafiz Wazir; Editing by Nick Macfie)
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani commandos stormed an office building on Sunday and rescued 39 people taken hostage by suspected Taliban militants took hostage after a brazen attack on the headquarters of the army.
Saturday’s militant raid on the tightly guarded army headquarters in Rawalpindi city came as the military prepared a major offensive against the militants in their northwestern stronghold of South Waziristan on the Afghan border.