ISLAMABAD, Sept 16: The army said on Monday that it could not be arm-twisted into accepting the terms set by the Taliban for a truce and vowed to bring the perpetrators of attacks on the security forces to justice.
“No-one should have any misgivings that we would let terrorists coerce us into accepting their terms,” Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said in a statement issued a day after a general, a lieutenant colonel and a soldier were killed in a bombing claimed by the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
This was the first public statement from the army on planned talks with militants since the politicians last week endorsed a government plan in this regard. It carried an implied rejection of the terms set by the Taliban for negotiations.
The main conditions set by the TTP for accepting the government offer for talks were withdrawal of security forces from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, release of Taliban prisoners and general amnesty for its fighters.
While the military was always opposed to these demands and even had reservations over the unconditional offer of dialogue by the political leadership, four deadly attacks on security personnel on Sunday put the entire process in doubt.
A source familiar with the thinking in the military circles confirmed that the peace process was now in serious trouble, if not dead.
In the statement, Gen Kayani reaffirmed the army’s institutional support to the political process, but cautioned against the militants taking advantage of it.
The attacks on security forces, the military feels, is indicative of TTP’s offensive designs, but importantly it is worried about the national resolve against terrorism being diluted in the aftermath of the all-party conference (APC) resolution that formalised the militant group’s status as a stakeholder.
“Army has the ability and the will to take the fight to the terrorists,” the army chief said and at another place noted the military’s “unflinching commitment to fighting the menace of terrorism, in accordance with the will of nation …”
Gen Kayani pledged to get the attackers punished, saying “no effort would be spared in bringing the perpetrators of these cowardly acts of terrorism to justice”.
Paying tribute to the late Maj Gen Sanaullah Khan Niazi, GOC, 17 Division, operating in Swat, the COAS said he had set “towering example of leading from the front which is hallmark of leadership in Pakistan Army”.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah telephoned Gen Kayani and said the PPP would “stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the army” in the ‘war on terror’.
US Ambassador Richard Olson said in his message: “The United States recognises the sacrifices the people and military of Pakistan have made to combat terrorism.”