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By Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad and James Lamont in New Delhi

Published: April 26 2009 19:33 | Last updated: April 26 2009 19:33

Pakistan’s army chief reacted angrily to US dismay that his forces had not acted to repel a Taliban insurgency advancing on Islamabad, the country’s capital and home to some of its nuclear assets. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani condemned the “pronouncements by outside powers raising doubts on the future of the country” in a rare statement at the weekend, insisting that his troops were ready for battle against any threat.

EDITOR’S CHOICE Analysis: Precarious position – Apr-26 Pakistani security forces launched an offensive on Sunday to stop the Taliban’s advance in the north-west of the country, killing scores of militants according to the military Gen Kiyani’s statement was interpreted as a sharp rebuff to comments by Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, who said last week that Pakistan’s government was in danger of abdicating responsibility to its people in the face of the Taliban advance. She had expressed bewilderment that one of the world’s largest armies appeared unable to confront dozens of militants who had moved into the Buner district, 60 miles from the capital. Gen Kiyani chaired a meeting of top generals after which he said Pakistan would pursue its own strategy in dealing with the Taliban. The army, which has received about $1bn a year from the US since 2001, is sensitive to the widely held view in Pakistan that it is fighting America’s war against al-Qaeda along the border with Afghanistan. But it also faces criticism that it is unwilling to sever longstanding ties with militant groups that it once sponsored in insurgencies in Afghanistan and India, even as these turn against Pakistan.

The Pakistan army “never has and never will hesitate to sacrifice, whatever it may take, to ensure [the] safety and well-being of the people of Pakistan and the country’s territorial integrity”, the general said. “A country of 170m resilient people under a democratic dispensation, strongly supported by the army, is capable of handling any crisis that it may confront.” He said victory against the terror and militancy would be achieved at all costs. Gen Kiyani’s statement comes after international pressure for Pakistan to step up its fight against militants who have taken charge of the Swat valley where they have vowed to lay the foundation of an Islamic state. Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, signed a law this month permitting the introduction of sharia law in Swat in return for Taliban militants laying down their arms. Rather than moving towards conciliation, the Taliban have shown signs of expanding their influence outside Swat into nearby regions.

https://i1.wp.com/www.nation.com.pk/uploads/news_image/large/GenKayanivowstorestorewritinSwat_3012.jpg

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