ISLAMABAD - Minister of State for Interior Baleeghur Rehman Tuesday rejected criticism of the PPP-led opposition in the Senate that the government was confused about addressing the issue of terrorism.

“The government is not confused. It has clarity in its stance that dialogue will be held within the ambit of the constitution. Dialogue is our first priority as mandated by all political parties,” Minister of State for Interior Baleeghur Rehman told the House while winding up the discussion on law and order situation in the country.

“The government is sincere in its efforts. There is no weakness. Dialogue is the first option and the government will only go for other option once this option is fully exhausted,” the minister said.

He reiterated that dialogue would be held within the ambit of the constitution. “That is our commitment and part of the oath we have taken. Anything stated at talk shows is personal opinion of those discussing it.”

He also said that dialogue is a sensitive issue and such matters are either kept totally secret or are dealt with cautiously. “But, the government has kept it open. Though it was an administrative matter, but the government took all political parties into confidence and enjoys their mandate to hold dialogue.”

He said it was wisdom of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that instead of going for an administrative decision, he preferred to consult all political parties to evolve consensus on this sensitive issue.

The minister questioned had the policy of those political parties changed now who had then supported to hold dialogue with TTP. He said there can be objections on a process but one has to start somewhere and if anybody wants improvement, there is always room for it. About the situation in Sindh and Balochistan, he said that the situation is improving in both the provinces in wake of the wise policies of the government and Chief Minister Sindh has himself acknowledged 40% decline in criminal activities in the province especially in Karachi. He further said that law and order is exclusively a provincial matter but the federal government is all out there to facilitate the provinces for curbing outlaws whether it is the matter of appointing desired officers or conducting targeted operation.  “The results are conspicuous and situation is improving. The Prime Minister himself went to Sindh and Balochistan and directed the provincial administrations to deal with the issue seriously and sincerely. He also extended all out support by the federal government.”

He said that the national security policy has been approved and it will soon be implemented as a whole. Partial implementation of the policy has also started generating desired results.

In this regard, he particularly mentioned to better coordination among security agencies and intelligence sharing with provinces. “These steps have also improved the situation and information is now timely passed to provinces on basis of intelligence.”

The minister said that the sabotage incident in Rahim Yar Khan couldn’t be ignored while a Judge of High Court is investigating the issue of mass graves in Khuzdar. “The government is fully cooperating with the committee and its report will be shared with the House.”

The minister assured to listen to the problems of people from any region either it is South Waziristan or any part of Balochistan. “We are ready to listen to everybody and sincerely move forward for redressal of their problems.”

Speaking on the motion, majority of the Senators supported the government’s dialogue process with outlawed TTP for bringing peace in the country.

They said that some elements do not want an end to violence in the country and we need to foil their designs by standing together. They said the terrorist attacks are rocking the country everyday and there is a need of political will to tackle the issue of law and order and terrorism.

They said the dialogue process is a complicated issue and it should not be discussed in the media before reaching any conclusion. The members emphasized the need for development of FATA and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province saying their uplift is vital to control lawlessness.

Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan said the dialogue process should be held within the parameters of Constitution. He said the government dialogue committee should protect rights of minorities, women and all sects during negotiations with the Taliban. He said the government should have included other segments of the society including parliamentarians in the dialogue committee. He said the opposition despite certain reservations has openheartedly extended support to the dialogue process to bring the extremists into the mainstream.

Ahsan said that the release of prisoners and implementation of Sharia law were the main issues for Taliban and the talks illustrate the retreat of the government. The PPP senator added that only 30 percent of Taliban were in the tribal areas and the remaining along with their supporters were spread all over the country. “The accused behind a bombing in Karachi is a local and not from FATA.”

 In response to Ahsan, PML-N leader Mushaidullah said the PPP did not take the dialogue process seriously during their term. He said it was a national issue and PML-N government was struggling hard to end the menace terrorism in the country.    Others who spoke on the motion included Nasreen Jalil, Sardar Yaqoob Nasir, Saeeda Iqbal, Ahmad Hassan, Kazim Khan, Mohsin Leghari, Ilyas Bilour, Abdul Nabi Bangash and Mushahidullah Khan.

Leader of the House in Senate Raja Zafar-ul-Haq, while responding to a calling attention notice, said Pakistan does not require help of any foreign county and capable to better handle its internal affairs. Senator Syeda Sughra Imam through a calling attention notice sought government’s clarification about Afghan and US facilitation in peace talks with TTP.

Raja said the US State Department has also said that the talks with Taliban are internal affair of Pakistan. Earlier, Syeda Sughra Imam said that the facilitation of the government of Afghanistan and United States should be sought in talks with TTP as reciprocity to facilitation of Pakistan in the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

The House also admitted a motion for discussion on the privatization policy of the government. The House will begin debate on the motion moved by Mian Raza Rabbani on Wednesday. Meanwhile, PPP and ANP staged a walkout over the decision of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) about the privatization of DISCOs. The House was adjourned till today.