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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.— File Photo
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.— File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The PML-N government officially announced on Wednesday that it would hold an all parties conference on July 12 “to discuss and evolve a national strategy to curb militancy and address the overall law and order and security situation in the country”.

Before leaving for China where he will be staying till July 8, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued an official statement about his decision to convene a meeting of heads of all political parties represented in parliament.

In his speech in the National Assembly on June 18, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had indicated that the government planned to take all political parties sitting in parliament on board to formulate a national security policy.

Besides energy crisis and economic challenges which the PML-N government blamed on its predecessor, a sudden spike in terrorist attacks over the past four weeks has taken the prime minister and his cabinet by surprise. Some political observers were of the opinion that being a centre-right political party its government would be spared by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militant outfits, but the myth stands shattered.

Except Lahore, all three provincial capitals — Quetta, Peshawar and Karachi — have suffered attacks resulting in the killing of scores of innocent people. So much so, the TTP killed 10 foreign mountaineers in Gilgit-Baltistan on June 23.

It will be interesting to see if Mr Sharif continues to stick to his old stance — talks with the TTP — he had taken in recently held APCs, at a time when militants have refused to give any room for discussion to the new government.

The PML-N chief was the main speaker at the JUI-F-sponsored APC held in Islamabad on Feb 28 which unanimously agreed to negotiate peace with militants through a broadened tribal jirga.

The JUI-F was given the task of convening the jirga, but the initiative lost the steam because of political parties’ focus on the May 11 elections. Signed by about 30 political and religious parties, the declaration said: “All the religious and political parties and Fata elders participating in today’s APC announce that the present, interim and the next elected government and the (future) opposition will be bound to implement all the steps agreed upon.”

The declaration’s main focus was on dialogue with the Taliban.

Earlier on Feb 14, the Awami National Party had also held a multi-party conference, but in-camera. It too supported calls for negotiations with militants. Although Mr Sharif didn’t participate in the conference, his PML-N supported its outcome.

Now in the government, and confronting the increased terrorist attacks, mostly claimed by the TTP, the PML-N leadership has no option but to take a leading role in developing a consensus on how to counter the menace. In a recent statement, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan also urged the prime minister to take the army chief on board because without military’s input and agreement there could be no effective counter-terrorism strategy.

But to make suggestions or recommendations as an outsider and to be in the thick of things are entirely different scenarios which the PML-N leadership must have realised in the short span of four weeks.

The PPP government also had its share of APCs on the similar issue of law and order and militancy which were also attended by Nawaz Sharif.

On Sept 30, 2011, then prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had managed to get heads of all political parties as well as entire top military leadership under one roof.

Mr Sharif was one of the leading participants in the meeting which adopted a 13-point resolution asking the government to take an initiative with a view to negotiating “peace with our own people in the tribal areas” and putting in place a proper mechanism for the purpose.

Mr Sharif had put some tough questions to the military leadership on the occasion. Although it was an in-camera meeting, Mr Sharif was widely quoted by the media as having criticised the security establishment for running the country’s foreign and defence policies in total disregard to parliament. He called for putting everything on record before parliament.

There has been no change in the military leadership, except former ISI chief Lt Gen Shuja Pasha who has been replaced by Lt Gen Zahirul Islam, since Mr Sharif gave his opinion on militancy at the PPP-sponsored APC.

Now Mr Sharif is prime minister and also holds the portfolios of defence and foreign affairs. It can be anybody’s guess if his government will wait for November when Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is due to retire, to formulate its new security policy or go ahead forthwith considering the serious level of threat posed by militants.

Coming months will determine the future of civil-military relationship in the country.

Comments (10) Closed

AB Uzair Jul 04, 2013 10:11am

zero + zero + zero = a big zero. No strategy would work without involving the military.

Yousaf Jul 04, 2013 01:29pm

How many of these APC's have the Pakistanis held so far on this topic? Does anything concrete ever come out of these?

Nauman Usmani Jul 04, 2013 09:55pm

nothing good will happen here..they all look for their own interest. none the less, they can do nothing, what they can do is, 'Dialogues' to satisfy ppl. but when the time comes to do, they use this 'Dialogues' to calm everyone.

Yawar Jul 05, 2013 04:41am

I doubt if anything positive will come out of this just like the multiple previous attempts to make peace with the TTP. And just like before, the right wingers and religious parties will continue to yell and scream and curse America when there is a drone strike against a terrorist target and also when there is a TTP strike against many more innocent Pakistani citizens. What a farce.

Waheed Jul 05, 2013 04:46am

The biggest problem with our political clergy is in spite of VERY SERIOUS CAPACITY and CAPABILITY shortfalls they think that bogus degrees do bring in the ex CM Baluchistan said "Degree is a Degree, whether fake or original, does not matter"....!!!!, I request, please do not smile......

Syed Jul 05, 2013 07:20am

@AB Uzair: Only army action is the only solution the people of Pakistan has already given their mandadte aginst the extremist elements in the country. Our Army and Politician must learn a lesson from Sri Lanka,how a small Sri Lankan Army was able to succeeed in rooting out the terrorist from their motherland, no pressure from outside world did deter their determination to cleanse once for all the terrorist from their land. Only true patriotism will help eliminate the menace of extremism from Pakistan. Please act now otherwise it will be too late.

A R Khan Jul 05, 2013 01:36pm

But he had a strategy to deal with the situation: Dialogue with the terrorists. What has changed?

asfi Jul 05, 2013 11:22pm

Pakistan lacks policy to counter terrorism. In the absence of policy there is no strategy as strategy itself is subservient to policy.

asfi Jul 05, 2013 11:24pm

@AB Uzair: No strategy without policy. What is our national policy?

MSA Jul 07, 2013 01:37am

All Parties Conference is a smoke screen. The PML-N wants to involve all political parties to share the blame. Nothing will come out of such a conference. There is a saying: "A camel is a horse designed by a committee".

The only solution is military; sooner the better.