Defence minister calls for national consensus to kick off anti-terror operation

Condemning the disastrous suicide bombing inside a Peshawar mosque, which claimed at least 100 lives and injured over 220 people, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has stressed the need for national consensus just like the one reached for operation Zarb-e-Azb against terrorism across the country.

Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly on Tuesday, he said the tragedy of the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar — which occurred on 16th December 2014 claiming the lives of about 150 innocent students, teachers and non-teaching staff of the school — had not been forgotten yet as another incident of terrorism happened in the country.

“A successful war was fought against terrorism from 2010 to 2017,” the federal minister said, adding that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led government, which was ruling the country, eliminated the menace of terrorism.

“Several APS-like incidents occurred in KP [Khyber Pakhtunkhwa],” Asif said, adding that the terrorism devoured numerous precious lives.

Referring to the banned terror organisations, the defence minister said that the house (lower house of parliament) was told around two years ago that “these people” could be negotiated but any conclusive decision could not be made on the matter. He came down hard on Imran Khan-led government for its instance of dialogue with the proscribed outfits.

Stressing the need for national unity, the minister said that “we sowed the seeds of terrorism ourselves”.

NSC to decide action against terrorism
Emphasizing the need for developing national consensus for launching an anti-terror operation like Zarb-e-Azb — launched on June 15 in 2014 following a brazen attack on Karachi airport — the minister said that National Security Committee (NSC) would decide about the action against the terrorist organisations.

He added that yesterday’s Peshawar massacre was no less than the APS tragedy. “Massacre of people in the mosque neither happens in India nor in Israel,” he further said.

“We need to put our house in order,” the federal minister said, adding, “It is not the war of any sect or class but the whole nation.”

‘Pakistan is alone in the war against terrorism’
“Our desire to be an instrument of superpowers is very old. Pakistan is alone in the war against terrorism,” the defence minister said.

Asif said while he is supportive of good relations with the United States, Pakistan shouldn’t fight the war at Washington’s behest and in its interest.

Commenting on Afghanistan’s situation, he expressed the desire for the country to improve and stay peaceful, as “it will also reflect in Pakistan”.

He added, “We want the betterment of Afghanistan. Peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan are interlinked.”

Following the Afghan war, the minister said, the Afghans who came to Pakistan and never left. “450,000 Afghans came to Pakistan in the last four years and did not return [to Afghanistan].”

At the same time, he added: “I can’t say how many of them are terrorists.”

Lamenting the state of security, he said the country has been witnessing bloodshed for the last several years.

“These people were brought back to Pakistan and settled here,” Asif said censuring the return of militancy in the country.

According to the defence minister, dollars were laundered to Afghanistan despite the shortage in Pakistan. “We bought coal from Afghanistan in Pakistani rupee and in return, they bought dollars and laundered it to Afghanistan.”

Peshawar attack is ‘against Pakistan’
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, while briefing the lower house of parliament regarding the Peshawar attack, said that the rescue operation had been completed and all the debris from the site had been lifted.

He added that the Khorasani group of Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) claimed responsibility for the brutal suicide attack.

He further said that 27 of the injured are critical, which means the death toll is expected to rise beyond the current 100.

Condemning the attack, he said, “This attack is against Pakistan and its 22 crore people.”

‘No division between Lahore and Peshawar’
Reacting to the comments of dissident PTI lawmaker Noor Alam Khan — who accused the forces of prejudice against the Pakhtoons — the security czar said that he understood and “surrendered” to the feelings of his fellow parliamentarian but “rejected” the accusations of prejudice levelled by him.

“There is no discrimination between Lahore and Peshawar,” he said, adding, “All of Pakistan has been victimised and every Pakistani is in mourning over the [Peshawar mosque] attack.”

Acknowledging that there had been an uptick in the number of attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), he said: “The KP police, army, FC and law enforcement agencies have been sacrificing their lives every day. Recently a police station in Bannu was made hostage.”

However, he added, the perpetrators of “these attacks are the enemies of Pakistan”.

In the past, Sanaullah said, there had been incidents of terrorism in Lahore which had claimed hundreds of lives.

“Our investigations have found that in 99% of the incidents, suicide bombers hailed from areas outside of Punjab, he said. “First, these attackers are brainwashed and then sent all over the country to incite terror.”

Must triumph over terrorism
Reflecting that Pakistan should never have helped train the Mujahideen in the past, the interior minister said: “We prepared them and now they have become terrorists.”

He also apprised parliament that the prime minister, army chief and ISI DG would come to the house to brief parliamentarians and seek their assistance. “We must triumph in the war against terrorism.”

The state of terror incidents in the country paralleled the situation that existed a decade ago, he added. “Our policy must also be the same as the one we adopted 9 years ago after the APS attack.”

Need for national consensus
Referring to the attack on a police station in Bannu in December last year, the interior minister said: “Security personnel sacrificed their lives during the operation, however, the demands of the terrorists were not accepted and they were ultimately killed.”

While terming it a “collective national” mistake, he said that “there is no need for us to join the fight at anyone’s behest”.

The interior minister went on to say, “Our jawans take action against terrorists every day, and are sacrificing their lives daily. The nation stands with our forces against terrorism.”

Blame game?
Insisting that the previous PTI government had failed to play its part in tackling the issue of terrorism, Sanaullah said that “if I want, I can accuse the previous government of neglecting this matter and back it with evidence”.

He alleged that the ousted government had allowed people who had been sentenced to death to walk free.

“It is necessary that the prime minister and the military leadership take the house into confidence,” he said, adding, “If that is not done, and the government formulates a policy without taking parliament into confidence, it may make mistakes like the previous government.”

January 31, 2023


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