The government has decided not to call in the army in Quetta in spite of demands made by the targeted Hazaras and is also likely to lift Governor Rule from the province next week.
The decision was taken at a high-level huddle, attended by President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, on Tuesday, official sources said.
The troika met amid countrywide protests by Shias seeking decisive action against the groups involved in the target killings and bomb blasts.
On Saturday, an attack on the Shia Hazaras in Quetta left almost 90 people dead. The attack came just over a month after the minority was targeted in a massive bomb blast which killed over 100 people and triggered unprecedented country-wide protests. Following the attack, the government imposed Governor Rule in the province in compliance with the Hazara demands.
The people are now demanding the government hand over the security of the provincial capital to the army.
Although the government has ordered a targeted operation in Balochistan, the meeting at the Presidency on Tuesday decided not to call in the army.
Law Minister Farooq H Naek confirmed the development and said the president, prime minister and army chief had also discussed the possibility of lifting Governor Rule from Balochistan.
“Calling the army is not a solution to the problem,” Naek argued.
The law minister told a private news channel that the federal government was considering the restoration of a provincial administration with the appointment of a new chief minister. A decision would be taken very soon, he added.
A security official disclosed that the army would, however, remain on standby during the targeted operation that would be launched against the outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has claimed responsibility for both attacks.
The official confirmed that the army would not directly take part in the ‘intelligence-driven, integrated’ operation against militants.
He added that General Kayani assured the federal government that the army was ready to take action if the civilian administration felt the need for it.
“Under Article 245 of the Constitution, the federal government can call the army for assistance in Balochistan,” another official pointed out.
“The army will remain on standby in Quetta and is ready to assist the civilian authorities if its help is sought.”
Though the army is not directly taking part in the targeted operations, its intelligence agencies will provide the main input to attack the hideouts of militants.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2013.