ISLAMABAD - Justifying the security forces action against the terrorists in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), an incumbent federal minister, tasked with supervising the defence-related matters, has indicated the government’s toughened stance on militancy.
“We are fully on board,” was the reaction of Federal Minister for Defence Production Rana Tanvir Hussian when asked if the Federal Government was in the loop regarding the security forces action in North Waziristan and Khyber Agencies in the last two days (Monday and Tuesday). He was talking to journalists on the sidelines of a gathering here on Wednesday.
“We are fully in the loop and the government supports this action,” the minister said adding the security forces acted in retaliation against the recent terror attacks.
To another query, the government functionary plainly hinted at the government’s decisive course of action against the militants. “A final decision shall be taken. We tried with utmost sincerity to dialogue with them (militants) but the terrorist incidents just kept on happening, which is why other options are under consideration.”
Asked by a journalist if the other ‘other options’ meant a military operation, the minister said, “Obviously.” Further asked about the time required to take a decision in this regard, the minister came up with a two-word reply, “very soon.”
Later, talking to this correspondent, Rana Tanvir Hussain dispelled the impression that the government had completely discarded the option of dialogue with the militants. “This option is open but when the blood of innocent people keeps on shedding, something has to be done.”
On Maulana Sami-ul-Haq’s newly found dissociation with the dialogue process, the minister believed it was for the Maulana to speak on the issue. In implied ‘protest’ against the security forces action against the hardcore terrorists, Haq, an orthodox cleric, and a sympathiser of Taliban, announced Wednesday to part ways with the government’s initiative of making peace with the militants through ‘peace talks’.
Rana Tanvir reiterated Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s stance that the militants would not be allowed to challenge the writ of the state. “The PM has made it clear the militants have to give up the violent ways if they want us to show seriousness in dialogue process. Otherwise, dialogue would be a futile exercise especially when there are bomb blasts, suicide attacks and targeted killings every single day. We simply can’t let that happening.”
Taking stock of the repeated terror attacks waged by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that resulted in the deaths of dozens of security men and civilians, the security forces on Monday and Tuesday scaled up targeted operations in NWA’s Miranshah and Mir Ali subdivisions and Khyber Agency’s Tirah Valley that resulted in the reported elimination of more than 50 TTP terrorists including top militant commander Adnan Rasheed. Pakistan Army, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and Frontier Corps (FC) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa launched the respective joint operations that saw massive ground strikes and aerial assaults by the security forces.
The defence production minister said the military action was launched with the support of and consultation with the Federal Government. “The matter was discussed in the Cabinet meeting and the PM and army chief also exchanged notes over the phone,” he referred to the Federal Cabinet’s meeting on Monday and a telephonic conversation between PM Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif the same day. Military action in retaliation of terror attacks in Bannu and Rawalpindi had purportedly remained high on the agenda in both these developments.
On Sunday, a planted bomb blast inside a rented vehicle in Bannu Cantonment fatally targeted at least 22 FC KP men who were about to leave for NWA. The next day (Monday), a deadly suicide attack in R A Bazaar, a congested locality of the garrison city of Rawalpindi, had left dead at least 13 people including eight security forces personnel, three school children and two other civilians while 29 were injured. TTP, the notorious terrorist umbrella organisation, had claimed responsibility of both the attacks that prompted the security forces to take action.