Military to retaliate against attacks with precision strikes

Pakistan Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Wednesday sought to end the confusion on tackling terrorism by saying that the government had made a fundamental policy shift in its approach and from now on surgical strikes would be used by the military to hit the perpetrators of violence.

Tabling the new National Internal Security Policy in the National Assembly (NA), he said that the government had several options before it, one was to maintain status quo, or have a focused dialogue for peace or a military operation. This policy prepared in a record time of six months had elements of all three but the government's offer of a dialogue was not taken seriously by the other side. He said after the bomb attack on the policemen in Karachi and beheading of the 23 security personnel by the Taliban, the government had changed its policy while still welcoming talks. After the All Parties Conference (APC) endorsed a dialogue with the Taliban, the process went ahead but was sabotaged by the drone strike killing the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader.

He said the government picked up the pieces and appointed a committee and it differentiated between the groups in the TTP which wanted to talk and those who did not. The Prime Minister was clear; he said that talks and acts of terrorism cannot go together. The terror strikes didn't stop and so he decided enough is enough, Mr. Nisar pointed out.

The dialogue was put on hold and it was decided that if talks had to go ahead, then the terror strikes must end. If there is continued terror activity then security forces will tackle it, that's the basic understanding, he explained. The hideouts of the terrorists perpetrating the attacks will be targeted with precision strikes though the government wanted zero collateral damage, he said.

Intelligence inputs were being used to target hideouts and homes of terrorists and the border areas. Despite this there was an attack in Kohat and near the Iran consulate in Peshawar.

If the government was going in for a military operation, then it would be with a political consensus, he stressed.

The government is clear and focused that it will respond to terror strikes and ending terror was not only a question of achieving peace but also important for the future of the country. He said the new National Internal Security Policy had a secret component and strategic and operational aspects as well. The 100 page document was tabled in the NA to enable members to read and discuss and improve on it, he said.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who was also present in the National Assembly, said that there was no confusion in the government about dealing with terror. Responding to a statement made by leader of the Opposition Khursheed Shah that the interior minister's statement was unclear as to whether a dialogue with the Taliban was still on. Mr. Sharif said the talks were held with openness on the government side.

Irfan Siddiqui, the coordinator of the government appointed committee briefed the media after every meeting. He assured the Opposition of a "heart to heart" talk in a meeting with leaders of major parties soon to remove any confusion and also seek their advice to take things forward. He said the interior minister had worked hard for this policy and it was not a party policy but one that is owned by the state and everyone should have equal stake in it.

He said today the situation was much better than it was before and the government had learnt from past mistakes. He said it had fought for the rule of law, for an independent judiciary and it was speaking from a position of responsibility and based on facts. He said only democracy could take the country forward in the future.

Mr. Shah had said that while all the parties had supported the government at every level, it was not clear if a dialogue was still on with the Taliban. Mr. Shah asked the government to maintain transparency in the dialogue process and take the Opposition into confidence on its decisions.