ISLAMABAD - The mainstream political parties of the country Monday backed the government’s anti-terror efforts and unanimously recommended the initiation of dialogue with all the stakeholders to curb terrorism. They also called for taking up the drones issue at the United Nations.
At an All Parties Conference (APC) convened by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the PM Office, the political and military leadership of the country termed the military operation to quell terrorism as last and ‘bad option’ and unanimously recommended initiation of dialogue with militants to bring peace and tranquillity.
In its preliminary and informal response to the development, the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban welcomed the offer of peace talks, calling it a ‘positive step’. Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the umbrella militant organisation, which is responsible for most attacks on the state and the citizens, said that meeting of TTP’s central council has been called to discuss the government’s offer.
All the participants, representing the mainstream political parties, signed the joint communiqué at the conclusion of the conference. The resolution did not give detailed mechanism for talks with militants, it however said that respect to the local customs, values and religious beliefs should be the guiding principles.
The APC participants were given a detailed briefing by the prime minister, the interior minister, the army chief and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director general regarding the internal and regional security situation.
The APC resolved that sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan are paramount and must be safeguarded at all cost. It recommended means and mode of fighting war against terrorism should be determined in the national interest and not be guided by the US or any other country. The participants reaffirmed their complete trust in the armed forces and assured them of full support.
The APC also endorsed the fresh initiative of federal government in aid of Sindh government to bring peace to Karachi and it also put its weight behind the Balochistan government to initiate dialogue with estranged Baloch to bring them back into the national mainstream.
The participants said thousands of precious lives of innocent civilians and security personnel had been lost in the war, in the ‘illegal and immoral’ US drone attacks and the blow-back from actions of Nato/Isaf forces in Afghanistan. They said there had been colossal damages to social and physical infrastructure and huge loss to the country’s economy.
The APC said it was a matter of great regret that immense sufferings and sacrifices of the people of Pakistan had not received due recognition from the international community.
They prayed for the martyrs and extended sympathies to the bereaved families, besides asking the federal and provincial governments to provide all possible assistance for the rehabilitation of terrorism victims, including internally displaced persons.
According to sources, it was agreed that government would start talks with militants at the first stage, however, action would be taken against those groups that refused to become part of the peace process. It was also agreed that cooperation of religio-political parties would be sought.
Sources aware of the conference deliberations informed The Nation that Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervaz Kayani put his weight behind the political leadership and termed the military operation as ‘last and bad option’. He fully supported the government move to initiate dialogue with the militants and said the civilian and military leadership are on the same page.
The APC in its resolution condemned the continued drone attacks by US. “We are unanimous that use of drones is not only a continued violation of our territorial integrity but also detrimental to our resolve and efforts of eliminating extremism and terrorism from our country. The government should consider the possibility of taking the drone issue to the United Nations as drone attacks are a violation of international law,” said the resolution.
Responding to a query, army chief said there was no written agreement with US on drone attacks and he agreed that unabated drone strikes are proving counter-productive and adding to their problems in dealing with the militancy.
In his opening remarks, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he considered dialogue as the priority option to curb terrorism in the country. Nawaz said the solution to the problem would be found with consensus as he urged all the political forces in the country to shun politicking on issues of national importance and join hands to address them.
“We have to rise above politics on certain issues and develop national consensus for the sake of this country... If we rid the country of terrorism and extremism, we would become a strong nation of the 21st Century,” he said. The PM said it was a test for the democracy on fronts of peace and national economy. “If we will continue to take decisions with consensus, the people will have more trust in democracy.”
Although the APC participants welcomed government initiative of dialogue but they said instead of just coming up with announcement of dialogue with militants, they should have discussed the modus operandi with them. They said that in all the previous APCs and in-camera sessions of parliament the thrust was on giving ‘peace a chance’ but later all those initiatives flopped because the parameters and mode of implementation were not fully defined.
Qaumi Watan Party chief Aftab Ahmad Sherpao suggested that conducive atmosphere should be created for dialogue with militants as favourable environment would be prerequisite to the success of any such initiative. JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman said Pakistan must refrain from poking its nose in the internal affairs of Afghanistan however it must support the peace initiative in Afghanistan.
Before the APC, PTI chief Imran Khan met with the PM and the army chief. Interior Minister Ch Nisar and the ISI DG were also present. Sources said Imran presented his proposals and apprised the participants of his reservations on addressing the problem of terrorism. He said the issue was primarily the result of drone strikes and peace cannot be achieved unless these strikes are stopped.
Later at the APC, Imran urged the government not to use the options of dialogue and operation at the same time if it wished to root out the terrorism and militancy. “Using the option of dialogue and military operation simultaneously would not be a statesman-like decision. We must realise that this is not our war which we are fighting,” he said in his address. He also urged for adopting a clear policy against US missile strikes.
“The missile strikes have increased our enemies. The tribal people are our people; they are patriots; only our policies have turned them into our enemies. These issues can be resolved by negotiations. We should first heal their wounds... We made a big mistake by sending troops to the tribal areas. We must abandon this war and convince our people that this is not our war,“ Khan urged the political leadership.