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If Sharif were to get serious in taking on the militants, there could be serious blowback in Pakistan, including in his home territory of Punjab province that has been relatively insulated from the violence. Many of the militant groups draw support from Punjab province, and critics question whether Sharif’s party, which controls the Punjab government, has the political will to take on the militants there.
Imtiaz Gul, director of the Islamabad-based Center for Research and Security Studies, said the government has been worried about attacks on Punjab province if it pushes for a large scale military operation.
"That’s one of the considerations," he said. "They believe they can develop Punjab into an island of peace and prosperity."
Karachi has been the site of previous attacks, including one in 2011 against a naval base that lasted for 18 hours and killed 10 people, deeply embarrassing the military. Security officials have been worried that a breakdown in negotiations could result in a spike in violence in Karachi, which has seen the Pakistani Taliban gain a major foothold in the city in recent years.
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