ISLAMABAD: Coming a day after over 70 innocent people, mostly women and children, were killed by terrorists in Lahore and the federal capital was overrun by protesting mobs, many expected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech on Monday to be a well-articulated address to the nation.
However, the 10-minute speech contained nothing new and revolved around what the PM called “my government’s firm resolve to uproot terrorism from the country and not backing down in the face of terrorists”.
Without naming anyone, the PM cautioned the government against all such parties who were misguiding people and instigating them to violence in the name of religion. “Our soft-handed approach to such elements shouldn’t be construed as a weakness of the government,” the PM said.
According to Mr Sharif, the recent uptick in the incidents of terrorism was an indication of the success of the ongoing Zarb-i-Azb military operation, since the uprooted terrorist networks could only manage to attack soft targets.
Nawaz takes no ownership of military-led ops in Punjab; opposition says address contained nothing new
Asked why the PM had to appear on TV when he had nothing concrete to share, a knowledgeable PML-N source told Dawn: “After Sunday’s tragedy, it was essential that a reassurance come from the prime minister.” When leaders from all over the world had expressed solidarity with Pakistan over the tragedy in Lahore, how could the prime minister stay away from the masses, he wondered.
When pressed, the ruling party source insisted that by saying he had ordered all “relevant institutions” to take every possible action against those responsible for terrorism in the country, the prime minister was referring to the action taken by law-enforcement agencies in south Punjab over the past 24 hours.
Many in the opposition parties also wondered aloud why the PM had decided to address the nation when he had nothing new to say in terms of concrete policy announcements. Surprisingly, they said, the PM did not take any ownership for the ISPR statement that military, Rangers and intelligence personnel had begun operations in Punjab on the instructions of the army chief.
Reacting to the PM’s speech, a PTI spokesperson said that “it was expected the prime minister, in his address, would share progress on the National Action Plan with the nation”. After the Lahore incident, the statement said, the prime minister should have at least ordered action against “those from among the ranks of his party who are in contact with terrorists”. But the prime minister didn’t miss a chance to criticise his predecessors. He claimed that for 13 years, no government did anything to tackle the menace of terrorism head-on. “It was my government which resolved to end terrorism in the country soon after taking charge in June 2013.”
Commenting on the omissions from the speech, a PML-N lawmaker admitted that a passing mention of the Rangers action in south Punjab, which the army leadership announced earlier in the day, would have strengthened the perception that both the civil and military leaderships were on the same page.
“It is a good move on the PM’s part to mention the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Ankara and Brussels, but a sentence or two on how the government intends to take up the issue of the recently-arrested alleged RAW agent with India, would have only added substance to his speech,” said the PML-N lawmaker.
Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2016