12:01am

Tue June 7, 2011
Asia

Pakistani General: 'Indiscriminate' Against Terrorists

A Pakistani general being urged to clear out a strategic area along his country's border with Afghanistan says his troops are engaged in active operations in the region, and Pakistan alone shouldn't be blamed for cross-border militancy.

Lt. Gen. Asif Yasin Malik, who commands Pakistan's Eleventh Corps, tells NPR's Steve Inskeep that perceptions his troops can't enter North Waziristan are incorrect.

"We're already there," he says. "I have five brigades over there — about 20,000-25,000 troops."

Malik says he is losing men in the area, killing insurgents and terrorists.

But the U.S. is impatient for Pakistan to strike the Haqqani network, a militant organization named after its leaders that finds sanctuary in North Waziristan. The network is suspected of kidnapping journalists, bombing a hotel in the Afghan capital, Kabul, and attacking the Indian Embassy there.

Malik insists he has no orders to go easy on the network.

"As a military commander, let me assure you, I have no orders to spare anybody and I don't spare anybody," he said.

But when asked if his troops are specifically targeting the Haqqani network, Malik said: "We don't specifically target anybody. You see, there's no such thing as a good terrorist and a bad terrorist.

"Anybody who challenges the writ of the state, or who is working against the interest of Pakistan, we target them."

Malik never quite says he is or is not targeting the Haqqani network.

"I don't give names to the terrorists, you know," he said. "I don't differentiate. My issue is I ask questions later, I shoot first. ... We target them very, very indiscriminate, if I may say so."

The U.S. military speaks highly of Malik, whose troops have coordinated with the U.S. on many missions. But when reporters asked last week if Malik planned a full-scale offensive in North Waziristan soon, he said no. A U.S. official believes Pakistan has a "tacit agreement" not to attack the Haqqanis, at least for now.

Malik also says the issue of movement across the porous Afghan-Pakistan border has to be understood historically.

"This crossing has always been there for centuries, you know," he says. "Now imagine a person who is not carrying a weapon. He just walks across the border. How would you or anybody know that he's a terrorist?

"He goes behind a bush and picks up a Kalashnikov and he becomes a terrorist. And to add to it, Kalashnikov is part of the body here. It is the third arm of the people."

He says the blame for such cross-border crossings shouldn't lie with Pakistan alone.

"We have suggested number of measures to the Afghan government and to the coalition," he says. "We have suggested mining. We have suggested fencing. We have suggested biometrically controlled crossing points. All have been denied by the Afghan government."

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