Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif claimed on Saturday that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had agreed to call off its long march if a recount of votes in 10 constituencies of the National Assembly was conducted. “We are ready to engage in talks and work out a formula but the solution has to be found through talks,” he added.
Addressing the participants of the National Security Conference, he asked the PTI to “come and give us your suggestions”. He added that he was ready to go and see PTI chairman Imran Khan if that would end this escalation. “Imran Khan had invited me earlier and I had visited his house. I’m ready to go and meet him again,” he said.
The government has made several offers to engage in talks but Saturday’s offer came from the prime minister in a meeting, which was also attended by the country’s military leadership. Chief of the Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif, Inter-Services Intelligence Director-General Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam, Director General of Military Operations Maj Gen Amir Riaz and Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa were also present in the conference.
However, the army confined itself to the military operation in North Waziristan, issues related to the internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the country’s law and order situation.
Even though the prime minister termed the session an all parties’ conference, he admitted that some parties were not invited. “This was not a national security meeting but Nawaz Sharif’s security meeting,” said Sheikh Rashid, the chief of Awami Muslim League (AML), who was not invited to Saturday’s huddle. The prime minister’s press secretary confirmed to The Express Tribune that the PML-Q and AML were not invited.
The PTI, however, was invited but the party’s leadership decided to boycott the conference. Neither Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Parvez Khattak nor Imran Khan showed up. During the meeting, Premier Nawaz said the country could not afford any political confrontation at a time when the armed forces were fighting against terrorists.
He called upon the political parties to play a responsible role to steer the country out of all the challenges it faces.
He said there was no justification for long marches against the sitting government as it has just completed one year in office. In a veiled reference to Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), the prime minister said that those raising slogans of revolution wanted to spread anarchy, which was not acceptable.
During the meeting when PPP Senator Raza Rabbani raised the issue of invocation of Article 245 in Islamabad, the army chief said Article 245 has nothing to do with long march and that Chaudhry NIsar has already clarified this.
The meeting started with Fateha for the martyrs of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Talking about the offensive, the prime minister said it has given the nation hope for peace. “The armed forces are valiantly fighting and sacrificing their lives in the fight against terrorists,” he added.
Maj Gen Amir Riaz briefed the political leadership about the operation and the status of objectives achieved so far, said a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.
The conference was informed about the areas cleared by the armed forces, and that terrorists were on the run and their command and control system crippled.
“The meeting was briefed that that during the operation and to handle the blowback of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, requisite legal and constitutional cover has been given to the Pakistan Army wherever it was required,” said the statement.
After the meeting, Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq told the media that the army leadership was asked about a timeframe of the operation. Although the army did not provide one, they said it would be completed soon.
The statement said that through coordinated efforts of the armed forces the financing of terror outfits had been blocked.
The meeting emphasised on the development work and resettlement and reconstruction in the tribal areas.
The policy of the armed forces was “to ensure there is no collateral damage and to protect the life and property of innocent civilians”.
The need for capacity building of law-enforcement agencies and greater coordination was stressed so that terrorists can be denied entry in the mainland, the statement added.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2014.