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Army needs public backing to take on militants: Nisar

Updated August 22, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Aug 21: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said on Wednesday that the armed forces were ready to take action against militants, but wanted to have a complete political and public backing.

“If there has to be a military action, the military has only one request: don’t run us down later,” the interior minister said while winding up the debate on the PPP leaders’ adjournment motion on last week’s Islamabad standoff in which a gunman kept a part of the capital hostage for more than five hours.

The minister, who has come under criticism from the opposition for the past two days for allegedly mishandling the gunman issue, hit back at the PPP and the ANP, holding them responsible for the current poor security situation in the country.

Chaudhry Nisar refuted the opposition’s allegations that the government had no clear vision or policy to deal with terrorism, saying a counter-terrorism strategy was being prepared and it would be put before the political leadership for developing a “national consensus”.

Saying that dealing with the security situation was not an easy task, he said they were trying “to build up a joint consensus”. He said dialogue with militants were only possible if all the parties provided their confidence to the government. “It (dialogue) can’t be held in division,” he added.

Hitting back at the opposition, the minister wondered why the previous two governments did not formulate any counter-terrorism strategy. He regretted that while criticising the two-month-old PML-N government for a single incident, the PPP had forgotten that 9,600 people were killed and 25,000 injured in 8,514 major terror incidents during the five years of its government.

The major incidents included attacks on the army’s General Headquarters (GHQ), Kamra air base and Mehran naval base, and the Abbottabad operation to capture Osama bin Laden, he recalled.

Chaudhry Nisar said that it was the PML-N which put questions to the military leadership, including the ISI chief, during a joint session of parliament convened after the Abbottabad operation. He said when in opposition the PML-N always supported the military and the govern-ment at all critical times but today the opposition was making a hue and cry on a single incident.

The minister said people remembered that how a serving Punjab governor and a minister for minorities affairs were assassinated in broad daylight in Islamabad. “Why no one at that time said that the state had failed?” he said while looking towards the numb opposition members.

He argued that if police were not well-equipped or trained, as claimed by the opposition, then the explanation should be sought from previous rulers. “This is the police I received from you two months ago.”

The minister briefed the house about the chain of events that took place after the gunman was encircled by the Islamabad police on the Jinnah Avenue. He said although he was in constant touch with police, the senior superintendent of police was in charge of the whole operation.

SIKANDAR ON LoC? He said gunman Sikandar had purchased arms from a dealer in Pasroor with the help of a friend who was under detention. He said Sikandar had visited the Line of Control in Kashmir with his five-year-old son on July 23 and was briefly detained by the military. He said the matter was still under investigation why he had gone to the LoC.

Chaudhry Nisar claimed that police wanted to register a case against PPP leader Zamarrud Khan for putting lives of people in danger by his action, but he stopped them from doing so because Mr Khan’s intentions were good. He said it was true that Mr Khan had committed an act of bravery, but no one should be allowed to disturb security paradigm.

Taking part in the debate, Opposition Leader Syed Khurshid Shah alleged that the government lacked the will to fight terrorism. He said Sikandar was a representative of those forces, though in minority, which wanted to impose their own Shariah through the use of force whereas Zamarrud Khan represented a majority of people who wanted peace and modern democratic Pakistan as dreamt by the Quaid-i-Azam.

He said if the government showed any weaknesses in dealing with the militants, then tomorrow there would be more bloodshed in the country.

Earlier, the house witnessed two walkouts by the opposition members.

All opposition senators staged a token walkout when the ANP senators protested over non-payment of arrears to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from the federal divisible pool.

In the second instance, the opposition senators joined JUI-F members when they staged a walkout over a decision of the Election Commission to postpone by-polls on a National Assembly seat from Tank.

The Senate will meet again on Thursday evening.