Fighting militancy: Why should we antagonise all groups, asks Aziz

Published: November 18, 2014
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“The enemies of [the United States of] America have become enemies of Pakistan for no reason,” says Advisor to PM Sartaj Aziz. PHOTO: REUTERS

“The enemies of [the United States of] America have become enemies of Pakistan for no reason,” says Advisor to PM Sartaj Aziz. PHOTO: REUTERS

A senior aide to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday appeared to turn on its head the conventional wisdom of indiscriminately targeting all shades of militants in the ongoing military operations in the tribal regions, arguing in favour of a more selective approach.

“Why should Pakistan target those who do not pose any threat to its security?” asked Sartaj Aziz, the prime minister’s adviser on national security and foreign affairs, in an interview with BBC Urdu. The interview coincided with a seven-day trip of army chief General Raheel Sharif to the United States.

“The enemies of [the United States of] America have become enemies of Pakistan for no reason,” Aziz said.

Asked about the Haqqani Network, Aziz said: “When the United States attacked Afghanistan [in 2001], all those groups who we had collectively armed and trained were pushed into Pakistan. Some of them are a threat to Pakistan, while others pose no threat to Pakistan’s security. Why should we antagonise them all?”

Pakistan has long been accused of harbouring the Haqqani Network which, according to US officials, used its sanctuaries in North Waziristan Agency as a springboard for launching attacks on foreign forces fighting a Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

Officially, Islamabad has said that Operation Zarb-e-Azb launched in North Waziristan in mid-June was targeting all shades of militants. Referring to the offensive, Aziz said Pakistan has taken a big step to stop militants from using its soil to attack US troops. “Their capability [to mount attacks] and their infrastructure has been decimated,” he added.

Asked about the leadership of these groups, the premier’s adviser conceded that some of them might have fled before the launch of Zarb-e-Azb. “However, indiscriminate action is being taken against those who are still on the ground,” he added.

Aziz said the Afghan Taliban were Kabul’s headache. And the Haqqani Network was a component of the Afghan Taliban. “Kabul should hold talks with them. Pakistan can facilitate in such a reconciliation process – but our ties are different from those of the 1990s,” he added.

About the recent visit of new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Aziz said the two sides agreed not allow their respective territories to be used by militants against each other. He added that the issue of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Mullah Fazlullah, who has found a safe haven in Afghanistan, was also taken up with the Afghan leader.

Aziz also said that his country’s soured relations with the United States were on the mend. He didn’t agree with the interviewer that there was a trust deficit between the two countries though.

“Last year, US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Pakistan. Then Premier Nawaz Sharif met President Barack Obama in New York. Subsequently, the Strategic Dialogue was revived which was stalled since 2010,” he added. “Gen Raheel’s visit is important given that there had been no contact between the two militaries at this level.”

Five months after the start of Zarb-e-Azb, the military claims to have secured 90% of North Waziristan, killing nearly 1,200 militants in the process. Similarly, Operation Khyber-I is also ongoing in Tirah Valley and Bara regions of Khyber Agency.

Around 350 militants – including 20 top commanders – have surrendered to the security forces since the launch of Khyber-I in mid-October, according to the military. At least 10 militants laid down their weapons on Monday, the military’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement. All these militants hail from Khyber Agency and they surrendered to the security forces, forfeiting a huge cache of arms and ammunitions.

Poll

PM’s senior aide, Sartaj Aziz, believes Pakistan should not target all militant groups. Do you agree?

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Published in The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (58)

  • Hedgefunder
    Nov 18, 2014 - 2:54AM

    Sir, your vision is extremely flawed, and its due to this, that the country is facing the current crises and likely to face far more challenging crises internally, due to the flawed policies adopted by those in charge !
    Rest assure, the problems in next 12 -24 months are not going to be external threats, but purely internal.

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  • Nadir
    Nov 18, 2014 - 3:16AM

    Indeed, why shouldnt we let groups of people run amok with the law?

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  • AVMPolpot
    Nov 18, 2014 - 3:44AM

    ” Fighting militancy: Why should we antagonise all groups, asks Aziz”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Translated: those terrorists groups that attack India are welcome.

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  • Mirza
    Nov 18, 2014 - 4:00AM

    Of course we should not fight our estranged Muslim brothers and provide them with an office and place on negotiating table as our equal. Let us make sure we hide them in a much better place this time so Americans cannot find them. CM, PM or President’s home perhaps if not another army base?

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  • Afsal Beg
    Nov 18, 2014 - 4:11AM

    Finally!!! The cat is out of the bag!!!! Wiley Sartaj has admitted that Pakistan patronises ‘good’ terrorists and uses them against neighbours (India, Afghanistan & Iran…in that order) to make up for ever deteriorating military capabilities!!! Wah Sartaj Wah. Way to go bro.

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  • Asok
    Nov 18, 2014 - 4:24AM

    This is so sad. It is only yesterday that this paper published a story saying Ashraf Ghani and Raheel Shareef had agreed to target militants that attacked each other’s countries. Haqqani network was specifically mentioned.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/792251/shift-in-afghan-approach-kabul-promised-to-dismantle-ttp-safe-havens/

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  • timurid
    Nov 18, 2014 - 4:46AM

    Oh dear!
    I hope the government issues a clarification pronto that these views were of Mr. Aziz and not of the PM or the govt of Pakistan.
    Good terrorist bad terrorist is what got us into our current mess.
    The USA seems to have learned their lesson belatedly. Should Pakistan wait for an existential shock before learning that lesson?

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  • SGN
    Nov 18, 2014 - 5:03AM

    Mr. Aziz, have you read the Constitution of Pakistan? Specifically, Article 256:

    256 Private armies forbidden.
    No private organization capable of functioning as a military organization shall be formed, and any such organization shall be illegal.

    I guess a year and a half was too long for this man to pretend to have a brain. All illusions eventually end.

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  • saeed
    Nov 18, 2014 - 5:26AM

    we will never learn.

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  • Explorer
    Nov 18, 2014 - 5:37AM

    “Why should Pakistan target those who do not pose any threat to its security?”
    Candid, but a revealing question that should set the bells ringing in Pentagon, Tehran, Kabul & Delhi. Sartaj’s personal credibility is going to soar while this will validate a US Senator”s remark that Pakistanis are compulsive liars when it comes to war on terrorism.Those watching the current season of “Homeland”, a popular serial will find little to distinguish fact from fiction.Truth has a nasty way of surfacing against all odds, this time in the form of a PR disaster!

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  • fahim
    Nov 18, 2014 - 6:15AM

    true colors are slowly coming out.. we are known around the world for our double speak, duplicity and lies. This man is only tip of iceberg..

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  • vasan
    Nov 18, 2014 - 6:17AM

    So Pakistan is back to its own wily games. They will nurture snakes hoping they dont get bitten. When will they realize that the truth is contrary and snakes will bite everyone.

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  • wb
    Nov 18, 2014 - 6:58AM

    Pakistanis still live with medieval mentality.

    Pakistan is doomed if this continues.

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  • Wellwisher
    Nov 18, 2014 - 8:02AM

    Why should we antagonise all groups, asks Aziz

    If all the neighboring countries start thinking on these lines, what will happen to the whole world?

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  • Iron hand
    Nov 18, 2014 - 8:28AM

    So he thinks Pakistan should ignore militant groups who don’t attack Pakistan but have established a safe haven in Pakistan? Has he learned nothing from the past 13 years?

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  • Alladitta
    Nov 18, 2014 - 8:40AM

    What has the distinguished gentleman just said? In my opinion this is to pressurise the international community. It is going the North Korea way. Holding the world hostage because you are a nursery of hatred against humanity, rearing those who threaten peace and development, education and literacy, …. This is the worst development for last 5 years or so coming out of Pakistan.

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  • sabi
    Nov 18, 2014 - 8:46AM

    That is the reason why this government has no foreign minister.Interestingly interior minister is same like nothing.Never mind new team of dedicated generals is there hope they would do their job per circumstances and that is,every militant is enemy of the state.

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  • Vikram
    Nov 18, 2014 - 8:51AM

    He is clearly saying why should Pakistan close terrorists organizations that kill others like Indians, Afghans, Americans, NATO groups. So foreign countries have no choice but to do some thing about terrorists operating from US soil.

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  • Prakash
    Nov 18, 2014 - 8:55AM

    And we are back to square one!

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  • Logitech
    Nov 18, 2014 - 9:24AM

    Why should we antagonise all groups, asks Aziz

    Because they’re spreading sectarianism in your society

    Because they’re attacking your neighbours while using your soil

    Because those groups will one day turn on you
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  • Muhammad Farooq
    Nov 18, 2014 - 9:33AM

    From this we can easily conclude what kind of people are ruling the country.

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  • Rizwan
    Nov 18, 2014 - 9:36AM

    Mr Sartaj Aziz has now outclassed the current record holder of memorable statements, the former CM of Balochistan who had said: ‘A degree is a degree, whether fake or genuine’

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  • Mahmod Khan
    Nov 18, 2014 - 9:39AM

    No doubt, the Pentagon report was right! and Pakistan has no right to protest to the US Embassy in Islamabad. You keep snakes in your house yard and they come after you!!!

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  • vasan
    Nov 18, 2014 - 9:41AM

    I am extremely glad that none of the commentators so far has supported Aziz, be it Pakistanis or Indians or of any other nationality. That is the real feed back to Mr Aziz. I hope the paki govt gets the message right.

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  • wiserneighbour
    Nov 18, 2014 - 9:46AM

    This habit of rearing snakes to bite the neighbours is dubbed as proxy war by India, Afghanistan and Iran. That stand by neighbours vindicated by the candid admission of this man.When snakes are not able to bite any one,they will start biting the owner.An example:TTP and allied terror outfits.

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  • VikasM
    Nov 18, 2014 - 10:06AM

    Disappointing to say the least! Sartaj Aziz is doing a big disservice to the Pakistani people and the countless number who have laid down their lives for the country. As an Indian, I am not unknown to this mentality of the Pakistanis, but now I really feel let down by somebody who thinks that OLD TRICKS will still work. Sad for Pakistan!

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  • chandran
    Nov 18, 2014 - 10:11AM

    Aziz saab then this is your intentions and what face we can have bilateral talk
    now you yourself tell us now

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  • AVMPolpot
    Nov 18, 2014 - 10:30AM

    The definition of an Idiot is one who utters what every one is thinking.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++=
    Congrats Sir, you just made it.

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  • Asad
    Nov 18, 2014 - 10:35AM

    If you call them “militant” then they for sure are dangerous for Pakistan and even if they are not dangerous for Pakistan and use our soil against others, they still are creating problems for us. What a weak and useless statement once again from PMLN. But who cares we recently witnessed foreign policy is no more with PMLN.

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  • Feroz
    Nov 18, 2014 - 10:36AM

    Very sad that Pakistan continues to live an illusion that those good terrorists currently not targeting it can be used to target neighbors. The folly of these past strategies has not brought wisdom and confirms that the miseries of citizens, will only continue. Subsequently the canard will be spread that those attacking Pakistani citizens are Indian and Afghan agents, when the antecedents of the attackers and their Godfathers is known to all. When will duplicity and deceit cease and the infrastructure of terrorism wound up ? Such high risk strategies when they backfire will be covered up with innovative conspiracy theories. Amazing to see a country in the modern ,married to disaster.

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  • Nadir Mahmood
    Nov 18, 2014 - 10:40AM

    Aziz should stick to his job and let the Army do their job. Raheel Sharif is in better position to decide as to how should he deal with some particular group. Long live pak Army.

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  • ali
    Nov 18, 2014 - 10:41AM

    He should be fired from his job. Immediately. His sanity is in total doubt.

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  • AVMPolpot
    Nov 18, 2014 - 10:42AM

    ” Fighting militancy: Why should we antagonise all groups, asks Aziz”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++=
    I agree Sir antagonising India, Afghanistan, China ( Himalaya se Shakkar tak), Iran of course does not matter.

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  • doom
    Nov 18, 2014 - 10:43AM

    Good lord…it is this morally reprehensible logic that has got us into this mess in the first place and has made us probably the most hated nation on earth.

    So terrorists that attack India and Afghanistan AND actively oppress our people as well who have the misfortune of being in the same domicile as them are a-ok? It’s all ok as long as the DHAs and the Model Towns aren’t affected.

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  • Sneha
    Nov 18, 2014 - 10:44AM

    So pentagon report was right. Why did you protest? Snakes are being nurtured to bite neighbours. Nothing new we already knew it. Only difference they are themselves talking in favour of it.

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  • AVMPolpot
    Nov 18, 2014 - 11:00AM

    ” [in 2001], all those groups who we had collectively armed and trained were pushed into Pakistan.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Says it all.

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  • MiF
    Nov 18, 2014 - 11:15AM

    he should be out of his mind and he should be booted out of the chair for saying such a irresponsible statement

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  • Khan Gul
    Nov 18, 2014 - 11:36AM

    Shaukat Aziz, please see the movie “Ender’s Game”

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  • AVMPolpot
    Nov 18, 2014 - 11:44AM

    @Rizwan: ” ‘A degree is a degree, whether fake or genuine’”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Are u expressing doubts over Mr Azizi’s degree?

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  • ModiFied
    Nov 18, 2014 - 11:45AM

    Time for Mr Aziz retire from active politics and diplomacy. This statement from him is the most damaging statement ever coming from Pakistan. Feel writing a lot more, but its of no use.

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  • AVMPolpot
    Nov 18, 2014 - 11:52AM

    In Abbottabad ,OBL never harmed any Pakistani and was a model citizen.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    QED.
    Pls read in light of Mr Aziz’s statement.

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  • Abdul Hamid
    Nov 18, 2014 - 12:02PM

    This man is an embarrassment and should be sent home. In his previous stint he had the audacity to defend the Kargil operation in a BBC interview, and made quite a clown of himself in the process. He was also responsible for freezing all foreign currency accounts after the nuclear test which led to flight of capital. Of course, he let all the fat cats first secretly transfer their money before taking this action.

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  • Kamran
    Nov 18, 2014 - 12:04PM

    Fire this man, and make Tariq Fatmi the foreign minister.

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  • Hasan
    Nov 18, 2014 - 12:35PM

    Those who have killed 50,000 citizens also were friends a few decades back

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  • Lion King
    Nov 18, 2014 - 1:03PM

    Yeah let them first kill us then these jesters would consider taking action against the other terrorists

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  • Chih-Hao Wong
    Nov 18, 2014 - 3:10PM

    As a chinese who is keep to develop friendship with Pakistan to eliminate ETIM and ETLO , is the foreign policy of pakistan now to support our terrorists or disrupt it ?.

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  • pakistani bloach
    Nov 18, 2014 - 4:43PM

    Well sais Mr aziz. Security of pakistan should come first. lets eliminate groups working against pakistan and push rest back in to afghanistan or kashmir. If india dnt want freedom fighters in kashmir then it should let kashmiris decide their future.

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  • jani
    Nov 18, 2014 - 5:04PM

    Simple, he wants to save SSP/ASWJ/LEJ as they are allied with PMLN and Saudi Arabia.

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  • kashif
    Nov 18, 2014 - 5:05PM

    Army should take note of this snake.

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  • goldconsumer
    Nov 18, 2014 - 5:08PM

    Just had time to check out the “complete” interview and man this is the height of irresponsible reporting. I commented before too but somehow the wise ET moderator thought of something else.

    This response was to a question that Pakistan is specifically not “targeting” Haqqani network. And to this it was very rightly replied by Mr. Aziz that we have dismantled all infrastructure within Pakistani territory of all millitants. We simply chose not to “kill” any of them. They are in Afghanistan now and Afghan, NATO and US should handle them.

    No need to make enemies of people who are not in direct conflict with you. But yes, we cannot allow anyone to use our soil for their specific agendas within Pakistan or outside Pakistan. Its like the owner of your house, doesn’t want you to live further..

    This is specifically why Hafiz Gull Bahadur and Mangal Baagh were angry! We have enough enemies already. Its wise not to make further.

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  • Avi
    Nov 18, 2014 - 6:43PM

    I think I’ll support Aziz Sb’s statement. He didn’t say that we would let other groups attack foreign countries, but there is no point trying to dislodge them when there are other groups who are bent on attacking Pakistan. What he said is quite reasonable and appropriate to me. Pakistan must first guarantee her own security, before looking after world. That’s what every other country does. Security of Pakistan is supreme. If this is policy of govt. of Pakistan then they have just earned a die hard support.

    Pakistan Zindabad

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  • cautious
    Nov 18, 2014 - 9:10PM

    @Avi:

    I think I’ll support Aziz Sb’s
    statement. He didn’t say that we would
    let other groups attack foreign
    countries, but there is no point
    trying to dislodge them when there are
    other groups who are bent on attacking
    Pakistan.

    Ignoring terrorist who attack your neighbors from you territory isn’t OK – and like it or not ignoring them is the same as letting them attack foreign countries. Now that Pakistan is on the receiving end of terrorist finding sanctuary in Afghanistan I would think that you would appreciate the flaw in your logic.

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  • Musafir
    Nov 19, 2014 - 12:36AM

    I am very proud of ALL the Pakistani people who commented on this article. Except for three, which I counted, the overwhelming majority of the people disapprove of the statements by Mr. Sartaz Aziz and such duplicitous policies of Pakistan which is choking the air that they breathe from the inside. My hats of to all Pakistanis who understand the foolhardiness of their government. Take your country back and take your religion back. Good luck.

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  • raw is war
    Nov 19, 2014 - 6:08AM

    good effort to take Pakistan to pride place of No.1 in terrorism index.

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  • Zaida Parvez
    Nov 19, 2014 - 6:09AM

    After everything, it is back to where Pakistan began. It is the same logic and eventually it will have the same consequences. These short-sighted decision makers still do not know what is good for Pakistan.

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  • Stewart J
    Nov 19, 2014 - 6:35AM

    Pakistan was made using religion as a pretext and it will also likely breakup due to it.

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  • weirdity
    Nov 19, 2014 - 8:20AM

    Aziz is a very honest man. He spoke the truth. Thats exactly what Pakistan government is allegedly doing according to the US intelligence agencies.

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  • Arshad
    Nov 19, 2014 - 9:43PM

    This man is an embarrassment and should be sent home. In his previous stint he had the audacity to defend the Kargil operation in a BBC interview, and made quite a clown of himself in the process. He was also responsible for freezing all foreign currency accounts after the nuclear test which led to flight of capital. Of course, he let all the fat cats first secretly transfer their money before taking this action.

    Recommend

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