The government’s plans to pass a unanimous resolution in THE parliament, seeking approval for a long anticipated operation in North Waziristan, met stiff resistance on Tuesday when the main opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), rejected the resolution by labeling it as a mere political move to “fool the nation”.
The government intends to move the resolution in the National Assembly in wake of the attack on teenage peace activist Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the former Taliban stronghold of the Swat valley last Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the opposition made it evident to the ruling coalition that it would not share ownership of a resolution before receiving guarantees from the government of desired results from a military operation in North Waziristan, home to a cocktail of terrorist groups including the likes of Haqqani network.
The move to block the resolution, which had already been shared with the opposition beforehand for approval, forced the ruling collation led by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to hold back from moving the resolution in parliament, knowing it would be opposed by the PML-N. And even though the coalition has the numerical strength in the Lower House to pass the resolution, it would have to take complete ownership of giving the go-ahead for such an operation.
“We wanted to have consensus over the issue, but we will not press you (the opposition) … however, it will not disseminate a positive message,” said PPP leader Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah as he announced the government’s decision not to table the resolution.
“We do not want to divide the nation, therefore, will not table the resolution,” Shah said. In addition, he clarified that there was no mention of North Wazirstan in the resolution.
“Fooling the nation”
“Take the house into confidence and spell out your policy in clear terms,” said Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, questioning the logic of undertaking an operation against militant leaders such as Maulvi Fazlullah, “who were hiding in Afghanistan”.
Nisar went on to censure the government for the non-implementation of as many as 12 unanimous resolutions in the past.
“The house has unanimously passed a resolution against weekly change in prices of petroleum products but the government did not pay any heed to it and changed prices after two days of its passage,” Nisar said, adding that using the attack on Malala as pretext for a operation in Waziristan was like “fooling the nation”.
Later on in the proceedings, PML-N MNA Khwaja Saad Rafiq directed some tough questions towards the government to justify his own party’s stance on the resolution.
“If the Swat military operation was successful, then why has the army not been called back? Why is civil administration not at the helm of affairs? Do you want the army to perform the role of police? If government has writ in Wazirstan, then why wasn’t a political party (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) allowed to hold a rally in the agency?” Rafiq asked rhetorically, adding that the PML-N would support the government if there was a guarantee that an operation in North Wazirstan would be the end of extremism in the country.
Responding to Rafiq’s diatribe, Shah said the matter was not about the attack on Malala, rather it was a move against a particular ‘mindset’. He added that even though the Taliban had openly taken responsibility for the attack on Malala, no one, referring to the opposition, had condemned it.
At which point the debate degenerated into a mudslinging contest between PPP and PML-N members.
PPP’s Akhunzada Chittan walked out of the house when he was denied an opportunity to address the house.
“Those people who know nothing about the region are delivering lectures,” Chittan said as he proceeded to walk out of the National Assembly session.
‘Resolution for operation in NWA a non-starter’
Meanwhile, author and analyst Ayesha Siddiqa said that a resolution being tabled in the National Assembly for the approval of a military operation in North Waziristan was always a “non-starter”.
“The government has the same options as it did in before the PML-N decided to oppose the resolution. Nothing,” said Siddiqa.
“As a nation, we have lost the spine to go-ahead with this operation,” said Siddiqa, adding that instead of a tabling a resolution on a military operation, a definitive and unanimous stand must be taken in the National Assembly against terrorism.
“A decisive message must be sent to extremist elements in the country by parliament,” she said, adding that once such a step is taken, it could translate into a military operation in North Waziristan.
Asked what is preventing political parties from agreeing on the military operation in NWA, Siddiqa said the army itself was not keen on an operation in North Waziristan, pointing towards a nearing withdrawal date of US/Isaf troops in Afghanistan.
“I don’t think the military wants an operation in Waziristan and political parties must play the symphony being conducted by the establishment.”