ISLAMABAD: Fearing a backlash from the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the government seat of Islamabad, an apprehensive PML-N government has decided to use both the security forces and the police on high alert to maintain peace in the capital as well as other parts of the country.
It appears as if the government has decided to put the option of talks on hold and focus on a military operation in the militant-infested North Waziristan Agency (NWA).
Sources in security forces told Dawn on Thursday that an operation of sorts had been started with air strikes on the militant hideouts on Wednesday.
When contacted, Information Minister Pervez Rashid confirmed that an operation had been launched against the militants. “Security forces will carry out their operation where the life of the citizens is in danger.”
Asked whether talks between the government and the outlawed (TTP) had failed, the minister replied: “We will talk with those who are ready for it and the operation is being launched against those who are not ready to come to the negotiating table.”
Army may be deployed in Islamabad in wake of military operation in NWA
In reply to another question regarding the deployment of army in Islamabad in view of the possible reaction from the TTP, Mr Rashid did not deny the reports: “It is the duty of the government to protect the citizens not only in Islamabad but also across the country. Such arrangements are part of the government’s precautionary measures.”
It may be mentioned that militants have reportedly warned the government of suicide attacks in the country if a military operation was launched in their stronghold. In fact, this backlash in the cities has been used as an argument by those who oppose an operation in NWA.
A senior official of the capital police said the government had asked the police of Rawalpindi and Islamabad to get assistance from 111 Brigade of the army for the security of the twin cities.
The official said Inspector General of Police Aftab Ahmed Cheema and Senior Superintendent of Police Mohammad Ali Nekukara met Corps Commander Rawalpindi Lt-Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarters (GHQ) and sought assistance of the 111 Brigade.
He said under a strategy chalked out in consultation with the police, troops may be deployed in the city for patrolling with the police.
As it is, the capital police are facing a shortage of manpower and the pickets set up in the city are considered to be an ineffective counter terrorism step.
The officials said that in December 2013 the capital police had sought the assistance of the Rangers but despite directions from the interior minister the paramilitary troops were still reluctant to help the police.
At a news conference on Thursday, the SSP neither denied nor confirmed the deployment of army troops in the city area.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) appreciated the government’s move against the militants and vowed to back it.
“We have always said the militants are not amenable to negotiations and understand only the language of force,” said PPP leader Farhatullah Babar.
“We supported the government’s initiative of dialogue for the sake of political unity against the extremists. Now if force is being used against them, it is but natural,” he added.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), however, opposed a military action against Taliban. PTI Chairman Imran Khan in a statement said: “It (military operation) is a source of concern.”
Mr Khan expressed concern over the aerial bombing in NWA. “This could be the start of a full-scale ground operation which would lead to more internally displaced persons (IDPs),” he said.
He pointed out that already there were almost two million IDPs who were in bad shape and almost forgotten by the state.
Mr Khan demanded Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inform the parliament about the status of the dialogue with the TTP which had resulted in a sharp decline in acts of terror, especially in KP.
He said the main tribes in Waziristan were fully supportive of the talks.
Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2014