ISLAMABAD: While all major parties in parliament on Monday vowed to support the full-scale military operation launched against militants in the North Waziristan tribal area, some smaller allies refused to go along with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in this mission.

That somewhat contrasted with a unanimous parliamentary endorsement of a similar military operation ordered by the previous PPP-led government in 2009 to liquidate a virtual militant takeover of Swat valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa.

While National Assembly, after a speech by the prime minister, saw the smaller groups, including the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), voicing reservations about what the military called a “comprehensive operation” launched on Sunday against local and foreign militants, endorsement, through speeches, was unanimous in the Senate, which the prime minister addressed afterwards.

The prime minister came under fire from opposition benches as well as some allies in the National Assembly for leaving the house immediately after making his prepared speech explaining his government’s decision to launch the operation without hearing the opposition so he could deliver the same speech in the adjoining Senate before its scheduled prorogation.

However, Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Khursheed Ahmed Shah of PPP, who later assured the government that “we will stand shoulder to shoulder with you”, resisted several non-PPP opposition lawmakers’ demand to lead a walkout to protest against the prime minister leaving without hearing their response.

But a more embarrassing situation for the government came when two government-allied parties — Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Pakhtunkhawa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) — refused, on matter of policy or for not being consulted beforehand, to sign a government-proposed resolution which assured backing what the military had called a “comprehensive operation against local and foreign militants” in North Waziristan.

The government seemed somewhat relieved by the decision of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the second largest opposition party in the house after the PPP, to endorse the operation after a meeting of party leaders grouped in a “core committee”, though PTI chairman Imran Khan protested against the government’s failure to consult his party, particularly when its government in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa was to face the main burden of displaced people from the tribal area.

But the Jamaat-i-Islami, which has only four seats in the National Assembly and is part of the PTI-led coalition government in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, broke ranks to join the non-signatories because it wanted a negotiated solution, though its parliamentary leader Sahibzada Tariqullah said: “We pray some good result comes out of it.”

The resolution, which expressed the house’s “fullest support for the decision of the government to launch the military operation by our valiant armed forces”, was signed by the representatives of the ruling PML-N, PPP, PTI, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the one-seat Khyber Pakhtunkhawa-based Qaumi Watan Party of Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao.

But it was only a depleted house, at the fag-end of a long sitting that eventually adopted the resolution, which also expressed the house’s resolve to “stand shoulder to shoulder with the armed forces till final victory”.

“This will not only restore peace and tranquillity in the region but also lead to its rapid socio-economic development and prosperity of the people, which is the earnest desire of this house,” the resolution said.

In the National Assembly, the strongest support for the operation came from PPP’s Khurshid Shah and MQM parliamentary leader Farooq Sattar, while JUI-F’s Maulana Amir Zaman, seemed risking his party’s alliance with the government, when he said how the party could be asked to sign the resolution while it had not been consulted.

In the Senate, opposition leader Aitzaz Ahsan, speaking after the prime minister, assured him support of all opposition parties for the government decision. “We will stand shoulder to shoulder not only with the armed forces, but with you as well in this battle”.

Before arrival of the prime minister in the upper house of the parliament to make a policy statement, senators from Awami National Party, Balochistan National Party-Awami, PML-Q and National Party had lauded the government for launching the military operation in North Waziristan.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2014

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