By HABIBULLAH KHAN
A senior Pakistani politician today demanded that Pakistan go after Taliban militant sanctuaries in North Waziristan, the first time an important ally of President Asif Ali Zardari has echoed publicly the long-standing U.S. demand for the country to take military action against the Taliban sanctuaries.
Asfandyar Wali Khan, leader of the secular Awami National Party was commenting one a private TV channel after the killing of his party colleague and senior minister in a suicide attack in Peshawar today.
"We must go after their sanctuaries," Khan said. He said he will meet with the President and advise him to go after the militants. "Whether anyone stands with us or not, we have to fight this mind set."
The United States has been relying on drones to target militants in Waziristan who it says cross over into Afghanistan to target NATO and Afghan security forces.
Pakistani officials have maintained that the operation against Taliban sanctuaries in North Waziristan will be at a "time and manner of their choosing."
Analysts say the Pakistani military is already stretched too thin and opening another battle front in North Waziristan is a big gamble.
It is clear that any operation in North Waziristan by the Pakistan army would have repercussions for the general population of the Northern Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa province.
"It's like putting your hand in a hornets nest," said one official.
Just in the past week there have been almost daily attacks in the province against the security forces.