ISLAMABAD: In the wake of its leader Bashir Bilour’s assassination, the Awami National Party (ANP) will push for a full-scale military offensive against Taliban insurgents based in the North Waziristan tribal region – believed to be a stronghold of Haqqani Network and their tribal cohorts.
According to sources in the ANP, the party plans to propose either an all-party conference or a special sitting of Parliament to evolve a consensus on a strong response to growing militancy in the country.
A special meeting of the party’s central decision-making body will be convened tomorrow (Tuesday) in Peshawar to discuss both proposals.
Most ANP leaders believe it is high time for a military operation in North Waziristan, sources said. ANP’s central information secretary confirmed that his party will seek a consensus among all political parties for a united front against terrorism.
“This is not ANP’s war. This is a battle for survival for all of us … if militants are not willing to reconcile then we have no other option except the use of force,” Senator Zahid Khan told The Express Tribune. He insisted that certain political parties will have to review their “dual policy” and come up with a clear stance against militancy.
ANP lawmaker Bushra Gohar, however, was more candid. “We have already wasted a lot of time and we strongly believe that terrorist sanctuaries, wherever they exist, must be eliminated,” she said.
When asked, a senior military official said an operation in North Waziristan was not possible without political ownership. He added that the government would have to take the final decision on whether or not to go for an all-out offensive.
Despite US pressure, Pakistan has been reluctant to launch a military operation in North Waziristan for a host of reasons.
In the past, the military has indicated its willingness to take on the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan – which is based in neighbouring South Waziristan Agency – it has never shown any commitment for a possible action against the Haqqani Network.
One reason security officials cite for this policy is that the Haqqani Network pose no immediate threat to Pakistan’s interests.
However, some observers disagree with this approach. They insist that while all these groups may operate independently, they complement each other’s actions at the same time.
Senior ANP leader and K-P Information Minister Mian Iftikhar also warned against differentiating between “good or bad Taliban”. “All of them (Taliban) are the same so they have to be dealt with accordingly,” he told a private news channel.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2012.
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