In a move to isolate Tehrik-e- Taliban, Pakistan Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has appealed to the Mehsud tribe, linked to Hakimullah Mehsud, to support the ongoing offensive in Waziristan as it was aimed at liberating them from the clutches of "ruthless terrorists".
As the crucial operation entered the fourth day, Kayani's appeal, air dropped as leaflets in the lawless tribal region, was addressed to the Mehsud tribe hailing them as "respectable and patriotic" tribesmen.
"The aim of the current military operation is not to target the self-respecting and patriotic Mehsuds but its purpose is to liberate them from the clutches of ruthless terrorists who have destroyed the peace of the entire region," Kayani said.
He also lauded the Mehsud tribe's services for the defence of Pakistan. The Pakistan military, according to media reports, is also trying to gain the support of other tribal groups and heads and has reached an agreement with two major groups led by Maulvi Naseer and Hafiz Gul Bahadur to stay out of the conflict.
"The Pakistan Army's aim is to provide the Mehsuds an opportunity to live in peace in their area. I am hopeful that the Mehsud tribe will side with the Pakistani military in this operation and will rise up as one against these ruthless terrorists so that Pakistan's green flag will once again flutter with full glory in Mehsud lands," he said.
Kayani's leaflet said the "main targets" of the offensive in South Waziristan are foreign terrorists, including Uzbeks, and local militants.
He acknowledged that the Mehsuds are faithful to the country and have "always rendered their services for the defence of Pakistan voluntarily and without seeking any compensation".
Observers noted that the move by Kayani was in line with the military's efforts to isolate Hakimullah's fighters from tribes in Waziristan so that they could be easily targeted during Operation Rah-e-Nijat (Path to Salvation), the offensive launched on Saturday.
The army has deployed two divisions or nearly 30,000 soldiers to take on an estimated 10,000 Taliban fighters, including some 1,000 foreigners.
Two days before the military operation was launched, elders of the Ahmedzai Wazir tribe convinced Taliban commander Maulvi Nazir to remain neutral and not to side with Hakimullah.
Maulvi Nazir told the elders he had informed Taliban fighters belonging to the Mehsud tribe that they were not welcome in areas controlled by the Ahmedzai Wazirs. Maulvi Nazir controls Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, and southern parts of the tribal region.
The military has launched its offensive against Hakimullah from the western, eastern and northern parts of South Waziristan. Last week, North West Frontier Province Governor Owais Ghani also held a jirga or council of elders and clerics to devise a strategy to neutralise warring tribes. PTI