ISLAMABAD - The debate over who is a martyr and who is not is extremely damaging to Pakistan, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar warned in the National Assembly on Monday. He said any kind of controversy related to the armed forces is “worse than poison” for the country at this critical juncture.

Speaking in the lower house of the parliament, Nisar criticised former president Pervez Musharraf for “misuse of the army”. He said Pak Army was not an individual but an institution and regarding Taliban talks, the military had exercised great restraint and created an environment conducive to talks despite unrelenting terrorist attacks.

Nisar’s statements on martyrdom were directed towards the brewing controversy over Jamaat-i-Islami’s (JI) ameer Munawar Hasan calling the slain Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud a ‘martyr.’ The army issued a press release, demanding an ‘unconditional apology’ from him.

The minister told the lawmakers that dialogue process with Taliban couldn’t move forward if drones attacks continued. “We will examine the situation thoroughly for four to six weeks to reinitiate efforts for talks. It’s a bit difficult (now) but not an impossible task,” he declared.

PTI chief Imran Khan invited all the political forces to lend him support for blocking Nato supplies on November 20 as a mark of protest against drone strikes. He could get immediate support of only JI and AML chief Shikeh Rashid Ahmed. His political rival Fazlur Rahman of JUI-F even went on to say that “solo flight should not be made on this important matter” and an All Parties Conference (APC) should be called instead.

“We are not waging war but giving a strong message as it is our right,” Imran remarked. He was a bit disappointed over the public reaction on the drone attack and said he felt dejected when people called him a supporter of terrorists. Imran also criticised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by saying that he did not convey a strict message regarding drone strikes to the US officials during his recent visit.

Nisar did not offer any comment on the PTI demand but he seemed committed about the peace process. He however pointed out that dialogue was not a one-sided affair and needed positive response from the TPP. Describing the state of process prior to Mehsud’s killing, he said the TTP had demanded face-to-face dialogue, to which the government demanded an end to terror attacks. He stated there had been no attacks for three weeks following this exchange, after which the government moved to advance the talks.

About not disclosing the name of three Ulema, who were about to leave for negotiation, the minister said it was necessary to hide their names for security reasons. About positive signs from Taliban, he said there were still elements in TTP who were in favour of talks. “Once again we will make our full effort to initiate talks,” he maintained.

PPP’s Nafeesa Shah paid tribute to armed forces, martyrs, polio workers and terrorist attacks victims. “Government needs to tell who is sabotaging peace process,” she said, adding that PM should come and take the house into confidence. MQM’s Syed Asif Hasnain said stressed the need to take tangible measures to overcome problems like price-hike‚ unemployment and insecurity. A PTI lawmaker Arif Alvi came down hard on government for not giving a proper direction even after deliberating the matter for six days in the house.