By Ed Johnson
May 26 (Bloomberg) — Pakistan appealed for increased international support for more than 2 million people displaced by fighting in the northwestern Swat Valley, as troops tried to clear Taliban insurgents from the regionâ€™s biggest city.
Other nations, especially the U.S., should do more to help the relief effort as winning the hearts and minds of affected civilians is essential to combating extremism, state-run media cited Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani as saying yesterday.
Pakistan says it may need $1 billion to rebuild property damaged in the fighting. International donors, including the European Union, Canada, China and Japan last week pledged $224 million, according to the government in Islamabad.
Troops are trying to clear as many as 1,500 Taliban militants from Mingora, the main city in Swat, as the military battles to regain control of the northwestern district. The government offensive began four weeks ago after the Taliban advanced toward Islamabad, flouting a February accord that introduced Islamic law in the northwest in return for peace.
The Obama administration has criticized the accord, saying militants threaten the stability of the nuclear-armed nation and endanger American security.
Gilani met yesterday with U.S. Democratic senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Mark Warner or Virginia and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, the official Associated Press of Pakistan reported. They discussed the Swat conflict and U.S. assistance to the nation, APP said.
President Barack Obama has said an aid package to Pakistan worth $1.5 billion a year would be conditional on the government tackling Islamic extremists.
Pakistanâ€™s military said yesterday it secured Swatâ€™s Maalam Jabba ski resort, which militants were using as a training and logistics base.
Security forces say it may take several days to clear Mingora of militants. The military says it has killed about 1,100 insurgents in the Swat, Buner, Lower Dir and Malakand districts since the offensive began. More than 50 soldiers have died, it said. Casualty figures couldnâ€™t be independently verified.