Locals, officials rebuff Pak Army's claims of successful conclusion to Orakzai offensive

Last Updated: Thu, Jun 03, 2010 07:40 hrs

The Pakistan Army may have announced a 'successful' end to the offensive in the Orakzai Agency, but local residents and officials have said that more than half of the region is till under the Taliban's control.

A statement issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that the Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani's visit to Orakzai marked the end of the military operation in the region, and that people displaced due to the war could expect to return to their homeland soon.

"Kayani's visit to Orakzai Agency marks the successful conclusion of operations in the agency. He appreciated the professional conduct of the operation which has cleared the agency of terrorists," the ISPR's statement said.

However, locals said that the battle is far from over, as extremists are still holding a large part of the agency.

"The military has cleared only Lower Orakzai, while the situation in upper and central Orakzai has not changed much, as the army is yet to evict the Taliban from these areas. The battle is far from over," The Daily Times quoted local residents of Lower Orakzai, as saying.

"In Upper Orakzai, security forces took control of Daburi, while Mamozai, Ghaljo and Shahoo areas are still in Taliban control," they added.

Local officials also said Uzbek and other terrorists belonging to the "Lal Masjid group" and the Taliban from Swat, Bajaur and Waziristan were putting up stiff resistance in Upper Orakzai.

"The TTP will not reach Peshawar as effortlessly as it would have prior to the operation. However, the job is yet to be completed in western Orakzai. That is where the real problem lies," an official said.

ISPR spokesperson Major General Athar Abbas also admitted that the war is not over yet.

"The operation in Orakzai was almost over, but stabilisation operations may continue.The consolidation phase has begun and the clearance of population areas will follow soon," Abbas said.

He said that the Taliban fighters were offering "quite stiff" resistance and that it is necessary to use air power, as it "is hard for ground troops to attack Taliban positions on mountain tops." (ANI)

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