Nirupama Subramanian

Islamabad: A bomb blast in the North-West Frontier capital of Peshawar that killed at least nine people and left more than 30 injured on Saturday after a drone attack in the Waziristan tribal area that is said to have killed at least 10 people earlier in the day.

The military operation in Swat, meanwhile, appears to be reaching a crucial stage with security forces saying they had surrounded Mingora, the main town in the valley. The military relaxed curfew restrictions for eight hours to allow the civilians still trapped in the town to flee.

In a tersely worded statement, Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani rebutted media criticism of the methods being used by the security forces in Swat, of suggestions that the Pakistan military was not trained for counter-insurgency operations.

Gen. Kayani also said comments about the shifting of troops from Pakistan’s eastern border with India were “unsuited”. It was not clear to which comments he was referring.

Pakistani media reported that Gen. Kayani told a briefing of political leaders on Friday that despite American pressure to redeploy troops from the border with India, Pakistan had stood firm that it would not compromise where national security was involved, even though the Americans had offered to stand guarantee.

This was a contradiction of President Asif Ali Zardari’s assertions to American media last week during his Washington visit that Pakistan had redeployed troops from the Indian border for the battle against the Taliban in Swat.

A military spokesman said 47 militants had been killed in operations in Swat and the neighbouring areas of Buner, Shangla and Dir. Three security forces personnel were also killed.

Earlier in the day, missiles fired from a drone at a house in Mir Ali in North Waziristan is said to have killed at least 10 people.

The Pakistan government has made a strong pitch with the U.S. for being given the drones so that the Pakistani military carries out the missile strikes, but the Obama Administration has turned down this request.

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that instead, the U.S. was sharing surveillance data from drones with Pakistan, and was flying drone missions over certain areas at the request of the Pakistan military. The report has been denied by Pakistan.

Hours after Saturday’s drone strike, the second this week and the third this month, a car bomb exploded in a crowded area of Peshawar killing nine people and left more than 30 wounded.