As the battle in lawless Waziristan intensified, the Pakistan government on Monday raised the bounties on the heads of 19 Tehrik-e-Taliban terrorists, including its chief Hakimullah Mehsud to a whopping Rs 41 crore or USD 5 million.
The rewards for the Taliban rouges gallery was announced with the government splashing black-and-white advertisement in Urdu on the front page of the mass-circulated The News daily. They were also featured on TV channels.
Bounty of Rs 5 crore was offered for Mehsud, who took over as head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan after his predecessor and brother Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack in August, and his close aides Waliur Rehman and Qari Hussain, the dreaded trainer of suicide bombers.
Bounties of Rs 2 crore were offered for other Taliban commanders Mohammad Raees Khan Mehsud, Maulvi Azmatullah Mehsud, Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud, Mufti Noor Saeed, Maulvi Shameem, Ameerullah, Naseeruddin, Shah Faisal, Sher Azeem, Jaleel and Mohammad Ismael.
Rewards of Rs 1 crore were offered for militant leaders Azmatullah Batani, Arfeshaheen, Mohammad Anwar Kandapur, Abdullah Shah, Maulvi Abdul Wali and Khan Saeed. "Anybody who provides concrete information on (the Taliban commanders) or catches them alive or dead will be given a cash reward by the government... The names of informers will not be revealed," it said.
The bounties were raised as the Pakistani army pincers closed in on Taliban hubs of Saraogha, Makeen and Ladha in South Waziristan.
Army sources have said that most of the Taliban leaders are holed up in Saraogha.
The advertisement, which began with a quotation from the Quran, described the commanders of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan as "hard-hearted" people "who do not fear god". Their atrocities are bringing a bad name to the Mehsud tribe and harming the image of Pakistan and Muslims around the world, it added.
"They are terrorising people every day and innocent members of the Mehsud tribe are dying and their children are becoming orphans," the advertisement said.
"These people need just punishment. They are the killers of humanity. Help the government of Pakistan to annihilate them," it said.
The rewards were offered less than a week after nearly 120 people, most of them women and children, were killed when a powerful car bomb ripped through a commercial hub in the northwestern city of Peshawar, one of deadliest terrorist attacks ever in Pakistan.
The Pakistan Army has deployed nearly 30,000 troops to flush out an estimated 10,000 militants and foreign fighters from South Waziristan, the main base of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.
The military says nearly 310 militants and about 35 soldiers have died so far in fighting in the region.