LAHORE: Advocating the need for a joint counterterrorism strategy, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif said on Saturday that there was little harm in opening contacts with the Taliban who want to settle the issue of militancy through dialogue.
The move, in the eyes of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief, is necessary for success in the fight against terrorism. “It is time to get united against terrorism,” said Sharif at a press conference in the presence of his party leaders Ahsan Iqbal, Pervaiz Rasheed and others.
“Pakistan needs to find a solution with a joint strategy and those Taliban who want to settle the issue with dialogue, we should contact.”
He based his reasoning on the current wave of pragmatism shown by the United States that allowed it to consider talking to the Taliban. If the Americans can think of doing it, he asked, “Why can’t Pakistan open a dialogue with them?” The PML-N chief also offered to host a national conference on the issue of security and terrorism. “If the government calls a national conference, the PML-N would endorse the move. In fact, our party is ready to host the national conference.”
Earlier, the PML-N chief sprang to the defence of the Punjab government on Saturday amid growing criticism by Islamabad that it was not doing enough to end the scourge of terrorism in vulnerable parts of the province.
Sharif claimed that the Punjab administration was determined in the fight against terrorism and would not surrender at any cost. He also dismissed allegations that the provincial government had any contacts with outlawed groups. “If there have been any contacts with the banned outfits, then there would not have been any bomb blasts in Punjab,” he argued.
According to him, there are no militant outfits in southern Punjab or elsewhere in the province. Sharif also claimed that the interior ministry and intelligence agencies were not cooperating or sharing information with the Punjab government.
He underscored the point that terrorism was the outcome of the wrong policies of a dictator, as not a single place, including shrines, markets, hotels, mosques and roads, was safe.
The PML-N chief condemned the attack on the Data Darbar shrine and said that the devotees of Ali Hajvery are all around the world.
He decried the statements of some federal ministers who had been making baseless allegations against Punjab over the past few days. “It is not a time for scoring points. We need to get united. We have to work jointly for the progress of our country,” he said. To a question, he said: “There is no threat to my life and I am ready to surrender my security.”
Published in The Express Tribune July 4th, 2010.
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