Pakistan's army fears it may have to engage fleeing Taliban fighters if the United States takes military action against Afghanistan, provincial government sources said Monday.
Sources close to the governor of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), an unruly tribal belt along the border with Afghanistan, warned armed Taliban members may attempt to seek safe haven across the border.
"The threat of violence from Islamic fundamentalists inside Pakistan is not our biggest worry," a source close to the governor of NWFP told AFP.
There have been a series of anti-US demonstrations across Pakistan, but the rallies have been largely small scale and calls for general strikes have not been heeded.
"Any problems Pakistan has will likely be along the border with Afghanistan. As you know it is a porous border and the Taliban have a habit of coming and going when they please," the source said on condition of anonymity.
"Pakistan is a likely destination if they are attacked, which is a potentially explosive scenario."
A military source north of Peshawar added: "(A Pakistani) military engagement with the Taliban is not out of the question. If there is a panic anything can happen, but we are ready to do our job."
Refugees fleeing Afghanistan say the Taliban have stepped up their presence along main border crossings, and Pakistani troops posted on the Khyber Pass have been seen reinforcing hill-top posts that overlook Afghanistan.
Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is facing the prospect of punitive strikes by the United States, in retaliation for its refusal to hand over Saudi-born alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden has been blamed for masterminding the September 11 kamikaze passenger jet attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington -- PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )