In a switch from its efforts to negotiate, the three-month-old government launched an offensive in the North West Frontier Province amid a growing threat to a major city.
Pakistan's paramilitary forces launched a decisive offensive against Islamic militants encircling the strategically important city of Peshawar over the weekend – an indication that the new government is turning to military action after focusing, until now, on negotiation.
Troops from the Frontier Corps bolstered by tanks, armored personnel carriers, and helicopters cleared militants from the mountainous Khyber tribal area just outside Peshawar on Saturday in the first major military operation since Pakistan's new government came to power in March.
The offensive has highlighted the new government's struggle to find a clear strategy for dealing with militants. While it has never discounted a major military strike, it has focused on negotiating truces with militants, even while their spread has caused mounting alarm.
Indeed, some observers have speculated that the government used the Frontier Corps to create the impression that this was a law-and-order exercise, rather than a military one.
But analysts say that while the government has turned to military deployment, it will continue to pursue peace talks. "The strategy is the same, but the modus operandi has changed," says Ikram Sehgal, a defense analyst and editor of Pakistan's Defense Journal.
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