Lawmakers in both houses of parliament, while condemning the Peshawar mosque attack a day earlier, on Tuesday said the National Security Committee (NSC) -- the country’s highest forum on security and foreign policy -- would decide on an operation to eliminate terrorists from the country.
They also urged the government to discuss a counter-terrorism policy during the joint sitting of parliament scheduled for February 8.
At least 100 people were martyred and around 170 injured after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a mosque in Peshawar’s Police Lines during afternoon prayers on Monday.
During the upper house session, which was presided over by its Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, Minister of State for Law and Justice Shahadat Awan maintained that the nation had unanimously decided to deal with terrorists with an iron fist.
He urged all political parties to unite and take steps to fight terrorism.
He added that if the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants were not released in 2020, the terrorist attack at the Peshawar mosque could have been prevented.
PPP Senator Raza Rabbani said the government had only shared information with the parliamentary committee that talks with the TTP were still underway while no permission was sought for this purpose.
He demanded that a parliamentary inquiry should be conducted for not taking the nation into confidence on the matter.
He said a “jirga” had been “outsourced” for holding talks with the banned outfit and questioned the legal status of the tribal committee.
Rabbani demanded that the counter-terrorism policy should be discussed in the joint sitting of parliament on February 8.
The PPP senator said the menace of terrorism should be discussed after calling the Senate Committee of the whole House session.
He regretted that the main issue for the political parties was whether elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa would be held in 90 days or not and appealed to them “sit in parliament” and hold a “national dialogue”.
Rabbani stressed the need to develop a consensus on the country’s economy and the supremacy of the Constitution.
PTI Senator Saifullah Abro lamented the “political point scoring” that was underway even before the burial of the blast victims.
PPP Senator Bahramand Khan Tangi expressed his grief over the incident and questioned who was responsible for it.
National Party’s Senator Tahir Bizenjo said the attack in a “safe zone” appeared to be a “failure” of the security agencies.
Calling for reframing the counter-terrorism policy, Bizenjo maintained that terrorist attacks had increased in Balochistan and K-P after the withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan.
He added that the same situation was witnessed during the tenures of former military rulers Gen Ziaul Haq and Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf.
PML-N Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said it was the State’s failure that a counter-terrorism policy could not be devised, adding that the country was in a state of war for the last 43 years.
“The Afghan jihad cost $5 billion and its results are in front of us,” he added.
He emphasised that a “clear” Afghan policy should be framed on the basis of which the counter-terrorism policy should be chalked out.
He said former military ruler Gen Zia was criticised but his policies were followed, observing that the “lust for power would destroy Pakistan”.
In a veiled reference to the ‘powerful circles', JUI-F Senator Kamran Murtaza said “everyone knew” who devised policies in Pakistan, adding that “they” were not ready to change them.
He called for “real democracy in the country to change the system”.
Referring to Pakistan’s role in the Soviet-Afghan war, PTI Senator Ejaz Chaudhry said the country was bearing the brunt of the conflict that started 45 years ago.
Later, the session was adjourned till February 3.
During the National Assembly session, the MNAs agreed to devise a comprehensive strategy to counter-terrorism.
The lower house of parliament met under the chairmanship of Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.
The House offered Fateha for the martyrs of the Peshawar attack.
Speaking on the occasion, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif stressed the need to create a consensus for an operation similar to Zarb-e-Azb to fight terrorism.
He said the NSC would decide on the operation to eliminate terrorists from the country.
"This is a decision that the NSC will make. Such matters can be determined at a forum, which is able to make such major decisions," he added.
Asif urged all political forces to unite against terrorists, who were targeting not a sect or a particular segment of society, but the entire nation.
“The war that was fought in Afghanistan has reached our streets, neighbourhoods and schools,” he pointed out.
Terming the mosque bombing in Peshawar equal to the 2014 Army Public School massacre that took place in the same city, Asif said a similar consensus was needed today as politicians from all parties were on the same page.
“Who will be held responsible for the Peshawar [mosque] attack,” the defence minister questioned, adding that it was imperative to first put our own house in order.
“Soul searching and self-accountability has become imperative because of our own follies and blunders as the seeds of terrorism were sown during the dictatorial tenures,” he added.
The minister said Pakistan had fought a deadly war against terrorism from 2008 to 2013 and lost many precious lives.
"Two years ago, we were told that we can talk to these people [terrorists]. Later, they were allowed to settle in the country," he claimed.
Disgruntled PTI MNA Noor Alam Khan sought the army chief's briefing to parliament on the Peshawar mosque attack.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that the premier, army chief and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director general would also come to parliament to address the issue of terrorism.
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