A day after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) provincial government announced the withdrawal of troops from Malakand division, three Pakistani army personnel including two officers were killed in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast on Sunday near Binshai in Upper Dir near the Afghanistan border.
Military sources said the two officers were Major General Sanaullah, general officer commanding Swat division, and Lt. Colonel Tauseef, commanding officer, 33 Baloch regiment. Lance Naik Irfan Sattar too died in the blast which took place when they were returning from the Afghanistan border.
The army has a strong presence since 2007 in that region when the former government of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal called it in to curb militancy which had taken over some parts of the Malakand division. Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah had established a parallel government in Swat valley and the army had launched an operation to restore law and order.
Mr. Shiraz Paracha, the spokesperson and media adviser to KPK Chief Minister Pervez Khattak told The Hindu that on Friday, a plan was approved of a gradual withdrawal of troops from the Malakand division, beginning in Shangla and Buner sometime in October.
All stakeholders are on the same page, he said and after due consultations, the plan will be put in place in a phased manner.
The PTI had made the issue of troop withdrawal part of its election manifesto. Mr. Paracha said the party had already made this commitment and it is a question of working out the modalities. He did not comment on whether the blast would have an impact on the decision.
The Malakand division comprises Upper and Lower Dir, Swat, Buner, Shangla, Chitral and Malakand districts. President Mamnoon Hussain has expressed profound grief and sorrow over the incident.
The incident comes at a time when Islamabad is initiating talks with the Taliban and releasing many of its prisoners including Mullah Baradar to facilitate peace in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile military sources said a Frontier Corps soldier was killed and one injured in an IED blast by terrorists near the road in North Waziristan Agency on Sunday.
On Thursday night too, some troops moving from Bannu to Saidgai were ambushed short of Mir Zai post leaving two dead and two seriously wounded.