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No decision on Waziristan operation yet: Malik

September 29, 2009

LONDON, Sept 28 Pakistan has yet to decide whether it should launch a full-scale military operation in Waziristan to tackle he Taliban, says Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

But he told Reuters in an interview in London on Sunday that Pakistan would take whatever action was needed to flush out the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which he described as “the front face of Al Qaeda”, from tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

“We are very much doing our targeted action on Baitullah Mehsud's group,” Mr Malik said.

“Whether we really need a real good big operation like Swat in North Waziristan, in South Waziristan, we are considering it and at the appropriate time we are going to take action.”

The minister said he was confident Pakistan had broken the back of the Taliban but that bomb attacks were likely to continue until the militants in tribal areas were dealt with.

“Let's not forget, it's not only the TTP which is operating there. There is also Al Qaeda and proscribed organisations,” he said. “We have broken the back of the Taliban but what about the main handler which is Al Qaeda?”

Mr Malik rejected US complaints the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Omar were operating from Quetta.

“Over and again this topic has been coming up. But Quetta shura, according to us, does not exist in Quetta,” he said.

“What we are requesting to the US and UK and all other stakeholders, please give us real-time information. If you know that they are present you must be knowing their names, details ... if there is any sign of Quetta shura, we will smash it.”

Hafiz Saeed's arrest

He also said that Hafez Saeed, the founder of Laskhar-e-Taiba militant group blamed for last year's attack on Mumbai, would be arrested if there were evidence against him.

“I assure you that we are on it, and also Hafez Saeed has been included in the investigation of the Mumbai attack,” Mr Malik said. “He has already been interrogated. Yes, (he has) been interrogated. He is now being investigated.”But he said Pakistan needed evidence that would stand up in court, adding that said India had been slow in handing over information, including a four-month delay in providing the confession of the lone surviving gunman from the Mumbai attack.

Pakistan has already put seven men on trial over the Mumbai attacks and Mr Malik said he was confident they would be convicted.

India has refused to resume formal peace talks with Pakistan until it took more action to stop militants from launching attacks on India and in occupied Kashmir.

The foreign ministers of the two countries held talks on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York on Sunday but stopped short of announcing a resumption of peace negotiations.—Reuters