As the calls for the prime minister to take the nation into confidence on the Waziristan operation rose to a crescendo, Nawaz Sharif addressed parliament on Monday and called on the nation to stand in support of the army.
“Operation Zarb-e-Azb will not end until all terrorists are eliminated,” he told lawmakers in the National Assembly and later in the Senate. He added that senior PML-N politicians Abdul Qadir Baloch would be assigned to oversee the issue of internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The premier hoped that Waziristan tribesmen would play an important part in the military operation. He called upon religious scholars to play their role in eradicating extremism from the country.
“The people of Pakistan are witness to [the government’s] sincere efforts [for dialogue] which were not reciprocated by the other side [Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan]. [Our countrymen’s] blood was spilled despite our peace efforts,” he added. “While the government was trying to negotiate with the TTP, they were targeting our children.”
The premier was also careful to add that the decision to launch the operation was taken in consultation with all stakeholders, including the armed forces.
Pakistan cannot be allowed to become a safe haven for terrorists, he said before leaving the house without waiting for the speeches of Leader of Opposition Syed Khurshid Shah and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Imran Khan.
As debates started, almost all political forces complained that they were not taken onboard before the military operation. However, by and large they supported the decision and prayed for its success.
Addressing the house, Shah said ‘we’ should take ownership of the military operation. “No compromises should be made. We are with our military leadership,” he added.
PTI chief Imran Khan said his party supported the army. At the same time however, he expressed some apprehensions. He said there were two solutions to the problem – one was political and the other military. “In the past, military operations have not worked out,” he added.
He also insisted that after initiation of the dialogue process, suicide attacks had decreased in number, while the economy’s damage had decreased to 33%.
“Now that an operation has been announced, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government will suffer due to the backlash,” he pointed out.
He also asked why his party was not taken into confidence prior to the announcement of the operation and said they learnt about it through the TV. “The prime minister should summon an all parties’ conference for further consultation on this issue,” the PTI chief suggested.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Farooq Sattar said the prime minister should directly address the nation. “We support this military operation and we should muster public support,” he said.
The National Assembly also adopted a resolution in favour of the Waziristan operation. However, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) opposed the resolution.
JI’s Sahibzada Tariqullah asked why the operation was not launched six years back when these terrorists took refuge in the tribal areas. He said even after the military operation, the ultimate solution would be found through dialogue. “We pray for the success of the military operation,” he added.
Addressing the lawmaker, Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said that the decision of launching the operation was taken after military-civil consultation.
“The cost of our 1980s Afghan policy is much higher. It was a strategic disaster,” he said, replying to Mahmood Khan Achakzai’s concerns over the military operation.
He said foreign terrorists ruined Pakistan’s peaceful culture and introduced Kalashnikovs, drugs and kidnapping for ransom. “But it doesn’t mean we will not rectify the past mistakes,” he added.
The minister said the media should not portray terrorists as heroes as was done in the past. “The people of tribal areas will be taken on board and will be empowered,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2014.