Talks called off

PM, military believe proceeding with talks would be ‘injustice’ to terror victims.

Zahid Gishkori February 20, 2014
Interior minister addresses the media at Punjab House. PHOTO: APP


The government decided to pull the plug on the moribund peace talks with the Taliban as the prime minister and the military leadership decided that “proceeding with the peace talks amid the bombings and slaughter of soldiers would be injustice to terror victims.”

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar announced the policy decision by the country’s civil-military leadership in a press conference on Thursday.

Following a wave of terrorist attacks on security forces, it has been decided that talks will only be held when blood stops spilling, Nisar quoted the premier as saying.

“Dialogue and violence cannot take place side by side. The military has been asked to retaliate in self-defence, which is their right. This [self-defence] is the right of the armed forces, which cannot be taken away from them,” he emphatically said.

Members of the government’s peace committee were also consulted in this regard, the interior minister added. “We have burnt the midnight oil,” he said, explaining how the government had worked overtime on how to resolve the issue.

The statement came after air strikes were carried out on Wednesday night that were authorised by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in which at least 30 militants were killed. Nevertheless, during the press conference, Nisar maintained that since September last year, there had been no military operation.

The decision to halt the ongoing talks with the Taliban was taken earlier – even a speech was ready – but the prime minister wanted to give peace talks one more chance, Nisar explained.

The premier believes that dialogue is the only way to achieve peace, he said. “But it was regretful that despite the sincerity of the government peace committee, terrorist attacks continued.”

Those who were talking about a military operation, why did they not undertake it when they were in power, he questioned the opposition parties. “After coming into power, the prime minister made efforts to create national consensus for achieving peace and the All Parties Conference was held in September.”

Appreciating the role of the negotiators, particularly the members of the Taliban committee, he said they played a positive role. “TTP committee members sincerely pursued the peace talks. They were inclined towards bringing peace.”

The deadlock in peace talks persists, however, the government’s peace initiative will continue with the militant groups who believe in the dialogue process, Chaudhry Nisar hoped. But, according to him, it would be almost impossible to pursue the peace talks further.

Meanwhile, the minister said that coordination had improved among the intelligence agencies. A Joint Intelligence Directorate will be set up to coordinate the work of the 26 intelligence agencies working in the country, he announced. A Rapid Response Force at the federal level would be replicated in the provinces, he said, adding that a helicopter unit would be on-call in case of any untoward incident in the provinces.

National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) would be the premier counterterrorism organisation of the country and the Internal Security Policy was ready and it would be approved soon, he declared.

Islamabad safe city project

After getting clearance from the court, the Islamabad Safe City Project would be launched in the coming weeks in a bid to protect the capital, the interior minister announced.

The security forces of Islamabad Capital Territory would be equipped with modern weapons, which were being imported from China. “Some 1,500 security cameras will be installed throughout the city—some of them in Rawalpindi as well to make these cities more secure.”

Clarifying media reports about the information ministry’s alert that declared the federal capital “an extremely dangerous” city, Chaudhry Nisar said the threat level to Islamabad has slipped as compared to the previous years. He said the “threat perception” of Islamabad’s residents has also decreased significantly.

Karachi, Quetta operations

Thousands of target killers have been arrested in the targeted operation in Karachi, Nisar claimed. It will continue to make the city more secure, he added.

Similarly, the operation against militants will also continue in Balochistan, but the province, and particularly Quetta, that had been the most troubled, is witnessing less violence as compared to last year, he maintained.

Imran Farooq’s murder case

The British government has sought legal assistance from Pakistan in Imran Farooq’s murder case, Nisar said. “We’ve referred this request to our legal team and we will give our input to the British government soon.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2014.


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