Nothing 'certain' about military operation in Swat: Asif

Says talks with TTP bore no concrete outcomes; cautions against situation similar to that of 2009 and 2010 re-emerging


News Desk October 14, 2022
Khawaja Asif. PHOTO: APP/Twitter

ISLAMABAD:

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif remained tight-lipped on Friday on the possibility of a military operation in Swat, but said the government was taking steps to control the return of militancy in the mountainous district.

However, the minister cautioned against a situation similar to that of 2009 and 2010 re-emerging in Swat and northern areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and added that the recent talks with the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) bore “no concrete outcomes".

Nonetheless, he assured that the situation in K-P was “under control” and would be tackled amicably in case of any untoward situation. He stressed that the provincial government should take cognizance whereas the federal government would support it in any case to counter terrorism.

“It is very heartening to see the public coming to the streets on their own for their rights. I feel confident that the situation will be controlled.

However, the recent revival of few terrorists is an expected spillover from Afghanistan,” he said.

Read Imran blames Centre for rising militancy in Swat

He noted that the fact people were standing up against incidents of terrorism was an encouraging sign. "The people have themselves now stood up against the whole situation.”

The minister added that the success of the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan was of great significance as Pakistan could not remain oblivious to what was happening in Afghanistan.

“Peace in Pakistan is dependent on peace in Afghanistan. We will use peaceful means to resolve the matter and we will use force if it’s inevitable to purge the country of the menace of terrorism.”

He mentioned that the defence forces of Pakistan were fully equipped and the most battle-hardened anywhere in the world.

“The frontline forces for the last three decades are fighting against extremism. Our experiences and sacrifices are unmatchable.”

‘Media has to play crucial role’

During his speech, the defence minister also spoke about the importance of the role media can play in such a situation.

"We have had the problem of terrorism for decades. Even they [terrorists] use media in some form or the other now to propagate their beliefs. They very effectively use media for recruitment, for letting the public know why they are resorting to the means that are very extreme...unbelievably extreme," he said.

“I personally feel the media has to play a crucial role... what is happening in our country for the last decade or so, or even more. The media has grown exponentially in Pakistan,” he said.

The minister added that, “Political workers like me... or my community of political workers who are in politics 24/7, 365 days, we feel the presence of media in our lives. We feel the presence of media day in and day out.”

Read more Huge protests in Swat against militancy

Asif added that it was impossible to stay in politics without recognizing or acknowledging the media's strong presence, and its usage or misuse nowadays by politicians.

"This is also something that must be understood. Social media is playing havoc with politics, economics, wars, strategies… with fake news,” the minister stated.

The minister added that the survival of any cause, whether good or bad, depends upon how it is dealt with by the media.

The minister cited the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war as an example. The defence minister said that the war was being fought on a very limited geographical scale, but its portrayal in the media is what ultimately mattered.

The defence minister's comments about militancy in Swat come as people in Swat have been staging demonstrations to protest against the resurgence of militancy in the region.

They have also warned that they would march to Islamabad if terrorists aren’t reined in.

The federal cabinet expressed serious concerns over the firing incident, and strongly condemned the incident that triggered a mass protest against the regrouping of militants in the scenic mountainous valley.

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