The Pakistan government on Saturday announced that it will suspend military operations against the Taliban in the country's north-western tribal areas in view of the holy Islamic month of Ramzan, but warned that any action by the militants would meet with a firm response.
Rehman Malik, who functions as the interior minister, said operations against militants by the army and law enforcement agencies would be suspended between August 31 and the second day of the Islamic festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the culmination of Ramzan.
"This move should not be considered as a sign of weakness on the part of the government. If there is any action (by the militants) against the security forces, a firm response will be made," he told reporters.
The holy month of Ramzan is expected to begin in Pakistan on September 2 or 3 after the sighting of the moon.
The Pakistan Army and paramilitary forces are currently engaged in operations against Taliban fighters in the tribal Bajaur Agency and the scenic Swat valley in the North West Frontier Province. A total of 562 militants had been killed in the operations so far, Malik said.
He made it clear that there would be no ceasefire and that the security forces would only suspend their operations against the militants.
The suspension was being done only for the month of Ramzan, he said.
The government "reserves the right to reinitiate law enforcement actions and military operations" if the militants begin regrouping or carry out any attacks on the security forces, he said.