He said Kayani’s strong statement in support of the girl may be an attempt to gauge whether there is enough public outrage to support a sharp response from the army against the Taliban. The general, said Quraishi, doesn’t want to be in a position where people are asking: ‘‘Why are you fighting America’s wars?’’
The Pakistani military has been waging a deadly fight in the tribal regions against militants at a cost of about 4,000 soldiers killed. But critics, especially in the U.S., accuse the army of going after militants that attack the Pakistani state while cultivating others that it feels will be useful someday in Afghanistan.
Still, there is a precedent in Pakistan of Taliban excesses provoking public outrage, which the military has then capitalized on to move against the militants.
In 2009, after a video surfaced of militants publicly whipping a woman, purportedly in the Swat Valley, triggered a wave of public revulsion, the army felt empowered enough to launch a major offensive against the Taliban in the area. Government forces flushed the militants out of the scenic valley, but failed to capture or kill the movement’s senior leaders.
Santana reported from Islamabad. Associated Press writer Sherin Zada in Mingora, Munir Ahmed in Islamabad and Adil Jawad in Karachi contributed to this report.