ISLAMABAD - Expressing his resolve to restore normalcy and peace at all costs Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Wednesday announced to ‘give dialogue with Taliban’ another chance with a clear and categorical caution that ‘talks and terrorism can’t go together’.
“The government would not allow the country to be held hostage by terrorists,” said the prime minister in the national assembly, issuing a policy statement about much-awaited future course of action.
The PM announced a four-member committee to hold talks with the Taliban comprising Major Muhammed Amir (r), Irfan Siddiqui, Rahimullah Yusufzai and Rustam Shah Mohmand. “I will personally supervise the committee while Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan will be the coordinator,” he informed. Three of the four committee members belong to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which has suffered most at the hands of the terrorists.
Rustam Shah Mohmand is a specialist of Afghanistan and Central Asian Affairs and is a renowned security analyst, Rahimullah Yusufzai is a senior journalist who has been covering Pak-Afghan security and terrorism issues for long, Irfan Siddiqui is a noted columnist and analyst who was recently appointed as Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Affairs, Major(r) Amir is also an expert on Afghan affairs.
The government decision seemingly cleared confusion and ambiguity among the opposition benches which assuring their support demanded an ‘open dialogue’ and setting proper timeframe for the talks. Agreeing with the proposals of senior opposition leader Khursheed Shah of PPP and PTI chief Imran Khan, the premier assured the house that dialogue would be held in a transparent and open manner. He also agreed with the proposal of deciding a timeframe for the peace talks.
Terrorism has no place in Islam which is religion of peace and harmony, the PM said while referring to the recent wave of terrorist activities in different parts of the country including Hangu, Bannu and Peshawar, and attacks on anti-polio workers as well as members of the media and the minorities. “We are under obligation of our religion and the Constitution to safeguard the lives and properties of our citizens at all costs”, he added.
Nawaz Sharif said the entire nation will stand united and fully back the government if it decides to crush the terrorists with full force. However, he said, since the other side had shown interest in negotiation they would also give peace another chance. The PM however categorically said that terrorism and talks could not continue together.
The premier, who took the floor twice, said that all religious scholars from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia agree on the point that Islam has no place for terrorism; rather, it values each and every human life without any religious discrimination. He stressed that those killing innocent people were acting against the teachings of Islam. “Islam denounces this act and equates murder of one person with the killing of the entire humanity,” he said while referring to the Holy Quran. It was known to all that targeting a human life is repugnant to the teachings of Islam and no Mufti in the world can issue a decree supporting terrorism.
Sharing the government policy, he said PML-N government was making efforts to stop the drone strikes. However, he also made it clear that there was no justification for continuing the acts of terror in reaction to the drone strikes. “Are the innocent children or the adult civilians who die in such attacks are responsible for conducting the drone strikes,” he asked? He said killing of innocent people cannot be tolerated anymore.
Nawaz also mentioned the Quranic law of Qisas and said it is responsibility of state to redress grievance of victims. Quoting a saying of Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (peace be upon him), he said the lives, property and honour of all the people are as valuable as the revered month of Haj, the day of sacrifice and the city of Makkah (Mecca). The constitution of the country also stressed the same point, he added.
“We offered them (Taliban) talks so that they do not play with the life and property of the common man, desist from spreading chaos and anarchy, and follow the constitution of Pakistan... But unfortunately the militants not only openly rejected the talks offer but also continued targeting the Pakistan army and the people,” Nawaz said. He mentioned that soon after the APC decisions, Maj-Gen Sanaullah Niazi, Jawans of Pak Army and hundreds of civilians were martyred and responsibility of the attacks was accepted with pride.
“I understand the grief of the mother who has to bid farewell to her young son. I understand the pain of the father who has to lower his own son into the grave. I have seen kids like flower in full blossom, in blood stained school uniform.” The prime minister said for him every mother was equal, be it the one whose child falls victim to a drone strike or to a terror strike in Peshawar, Rawalpindi or any other city of the country.
The PM, even after the adjournment of the house, remained there for around ten minutes and shook hands with major opposition lawmakers including Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah, PTI chief Imran khan, MQM senior lawmaker Farooq Sattar, QWP chief Aftab Sherpao and others. He also briefly chatted with the opposition members.
Taking the floor, Syed Khursheed Shah assured the support of opposition for holding talks with TTP but demanded to set proper timeframe. “Perhaps for the first time, opposition has openly given mandate to government and it will not do politics on sensitive issues,” Shah said. “Sovereignty of the country will be much important for you and we are well aware of PM’s compulsions but there is need to set a timeframe,” he remarked.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan also assured their support to the government on positive steps regarding peace. He also suggested that dialogue should be held openly. “I am pleased to hear this decision as it cleared confusion but it need to be more clear,” Khan said, pointing to apparent contradiction between the statements of two senior ruling party members – adviser to PM Sartaj Aziz and Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah. In an interview with a foreign media organisation, Rana had given an impression that government had decided on hot pursuit of militants.
Clearly opposing the government decision, MQM’s Farooq Sattar said that holding peace talk after heinous acts of terror would tantamount to compromising on the blood of martyrs. “If a vague message is conveyed, it would create disappointment among masses,” he added. However, Sattar also said those militants who are in favour talks should be given chance.
JUI-F chief Fazlur Rahman lauded the government decision. “There was some ambiguity about future course of action which has been cleared with PM’s speech,” he said. Fazal however complained the PM for not taking their allied partner into confidence about pursuing the option of talks. “If JUI-F was consulted before taking this decision, they might have proposed some points,” he added. He said they would support the dialogue process to accomplish the goal of peace and stability.
According to BBC, in the rare address to the National Assembly, Nawaz said “terrorism” must be defeated, either by talks or force, and he was giving peace a last chance.