Pak army fighting in 'Taliban city'

Are they finally getting serious about the Taliban?

The Pakistani government tried negotiations with the terrorists only to see the Taliban take advantage and infest areas where they had not been before. Terrorist bombings have been on the rise for a year and even giving the militants a large chunk of territory in the Swat Valley didn't seem to stem the bloodshed.

Now, frightened by the prospect of a takeover by extremists, the newly roused Pakistan government sent the army into Swat to restore the writ of Pakistani law. And today, they are making progress in subduing the city that serves as the heart of the Taliban in the region.

The BBC has the details:

He said soldiers had cleared parts of the city, but added that the pace of the offensive was "painfully slow".

"This is an extremely difficult, extremely dangerous operation, because clearance has to be done street by street, house by house."

The military says the city is surrounded, most of the militants' ammunition dumps are destroyed and their supply routes cut off.

The BBC's Shoaib Hassan, in Islamabad, says it is the most important battle yet in the army's offensive against the Taliban in Swat.

A swift victory would bolster public support for a greater fight against the militants, our correspondent adds.


Pakistan's army began an offensive against the Taliban on 2 May after the peace deal broke down and the militants began expanding their area of influence.

A recent investigation by the BBC suggested that less than half of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP), which contains Swat Valley, and the neighbouring Federally Administered Tribal Areas is under full government control.

In Swat, the army says that about 15,000 members of the security forces are fighting between 4,000 and 5,000 militants.

It says more than 1,000 militants and more than 50 soldiers have been killed since the offensive began.

Is it enough? The key will be getting the support of the people. Guns and soldiers alone will not defeat the Taliban. It is the Pakistani people - a conflicted population who loves fundamentalist Islam but also has a tradition of some separation of Islam and the state - that will be key to re-establishing government control in the NWFP areas.

The growing middle class in Pakistan is more secular oriented as is much of the army's officer corps. The troops are another matter, being mostly from rural areas and largely uneducated. This is why the government and the army are reluctant to commit more than a fraction of the Pakistani army to the fight against the Taliban.

Whether the government will continue to put pressure on the Taliban - their own creation from the 1990's - and whether the army can continue to perform adequately will be the questions that must be answered in the next few weeks if Pakistan is to weather this crisis.