Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged on Sunday to continue operations against terrorists of all hues while admitting that progress on the revised national counterterrorism strategy has been slow.
He was speaking to reporters after his arrival in London from Switzerland, where he attended the World Economic Forum and visited CERN last week.
While the prime minister was in Switzerland, terrorists had attacked the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, killing 21 people. The assault was reminiscent of the December 2014 Peshawar school attack when nearly 150 people, mostly schoolchildren, were killed, prompting the government to launch a National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism and extremism.
“We will fulfil this responsibility,” Premier Nawaz said. “In certain areas of NAP, progress has been slow, but in many other areas work has been started.”
Pakistan, he said, is facing certain issues which cannot be tackled singlehandedly and required consultations with all stakeholders. “Talks among the government, army and other institutions have helped a lot,” he added.
The revised anti-terror policy saw the establishment of military courts and abolition of a six-year moratorium on the death penalty. The military also intensified its campaign against terrorists following the December 2014 assault.
Both the Peshawar and Charsadda attacks were found to have been planned and coordinated from across the border in Afghanistan.
Premier Nawaz said both countries had an agreement not to allow militants to use their respective territory to launch attacks on their neighbours.”Pakistan and Afghanistan are strictly following this agreement, but there are certain elements in Afghanistan who are attacking Pakistan on their own,” he added. “Such attacks should be stopped.”
Responding to a query, the prime minister said Pakistan strongly supported an Afghan led and Afghan owned peace process, as regional stability was interlinked with political stability in Afghanistan.
He added the latest quadrilateral meeting of the group comprising Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China in Kabul had been encouraging. “All three countries in the group want a peaceful settlement to the Afghan issue,” he said. “But it is not Pakistan’s sole responsibility.”
About the Pathankot airbase attack in India, Nawaz said Pakistan had not pointed fingers at anyone but there should be no interference into each other’s affairs.
He added Islamabad was investigating the matter and facts would be brought forward whenever investigations were over. A special team has been constituted to probe the case thoroughly.
The premier said his Indian counterpart had assured of assisting Pakistan in the investigations. “We are working in the right direction.”
To another question, the prime minister said Pakistan wanted to ease tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran and bridge the gap in their bilateral ties. “We have taken the initiative on our own. Nobody called us to initiate it,” he clarified speculations that Saudi Arabia asked Pakistan to mediate between the two sides.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2016.