| KARACHI, Pakistan, June 11
KARACHI, Pakistan, June 11 Cathay Pacific
Airways has cancelled all flights to the Pakistani city of
Karachi from Bangkok following a Taliban raid on the country's
busiest airport this week, as top Pakistani officials debated
how to tackle the escalating violence.
International flights in and out of Karachi have been
suspended twice since Sunday, when gunmen wearing military
uniforms stormed the airport, firing rocket-propelled grenades
in an all-night siege that killed 34 people.
"We will continue to monitor the situation closely," Cathay
said in a statement. "Customers are recommended to check flight
status before departing for the airport."
Cathay Pacific shares were down 0.28 percent in
mid-afternoon trade on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
In Islamabad, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired a meeting
with security officials late on Tuesday to discuss how to handle
the crisis as the escalation of violence raised the prospects of
an all-out army campaign against insurgent strongholds.
The Pakistani Taliban, a loose alliance of insurgent groups
united by anti-state Jihadist ideology, said they had carried
out the Karachi attack in response to strikes on their positions
on the Afghan border.
Pakistan's air force has periodically bombed Taliban
hideouts in the ethnic Pashtun belt straddling the border, but
has yet to mount a major ground offensive there.
Security was tight around Karachi airport and the bustling
and chaotic city of 18 million people remained nervous after the
twin attacks, though life had seemed to return to normal, with
shops and markets open and people going about daily tasks.
"It looks like the Taliban have taken over the entire
country," said Mohammad Gulfam, who owns an electrical
appliances shop in Karachi.
"What we want is that the army should carry out a big
operation to clear out all the country, so that the public can
get some peace of mind."
Sunday's assault destroyed prospects for peace talks between
the Taliban and the Sharif's government after months of failed
attempts to engage the al Qaeda-linked militants in dialogue on
how to end years of violence.
The Pakistani Taliban are allied with the Afghan militants
of the same name and share a similar jihadist ideology.
But they operate as a separate entity, focused entirely on
toppling the Pakistani state and establishing strict Islamic
rule in the nuclear-armed nation, whereas the Afghan Taliban are
united by their campaign against invading foreign forces.
(Writing by Maria Golovnina Additional reporting by Anne Marie
Roantree and Clare Baldwin; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)