Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Friday said recent talks with the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) bore "no concrete outcomes", even as thousands of Swat residents took to the streets in protest of the rise of militancy in the region.
For weeks now, KP residents, particularly of Swat, have been protesting against terrorism, most recently warning that they would march to Islamabad if terrorists aren't reined in.
Even today, there were reports of protests in the Charbagh tehsil of Swat and in the Shangla's Alpuri area. It was in Charbagh that a school van came under the fire of militants earlier this week, which left the driver dead and two students wounded.
After the incident, hundreds of students and teachers took to the streets in several areas to protest against the rising tide of insurgency in the area. The following day, thousands took to the streets.
Read: Anti-militancy protests
However, addressing the Arab News Pakistan annual conference 2022 as a keynote speaker, the minister insisted the situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was "under control" and would be "tackled amicably" in case of any untoward situation.
In a report by Arab News, Asif appeared to rule out intervention in the region, and voiced his preference for "peaceful means". “We are not thinking of any intervention, it’s not on the cards,” Asif was quoted as saying.
“Absolutely we will use other means, peaceful means, and if we have to resort to some other forces to control [it] and if that is inevitable, we will resort to that Inshallah.”
Instead, Asif made it clear that the KP government should take cognisance of the situation, whereas the federal government would support it in any case of counter-terrorism.
“It is very heartening to see the public coming to the streets on their own for their rights. I feel confident that the situation will be brought under control. However, the recent revival of a few terrorists is an expected spillover from Afghanistan,” he said.
The minister added that the success of the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan was of great significance, as Pakistan could not remain oblivious to what was happening in Afghanistan.
“Peace in Pakistan is dependent on peace in Afghanistan. We will use peaceful means to resolve the matter and we will use force if it’s inevitable to purge the country from the menace of terrorism.”
He mentioned that the defence forces of Pakistan were fully equipped and the most battle hardened anywhere in the world. “The frontline forces for the last three decades are fighting against extremism. Our experiences and sacrifices are unmatchable.”
The defence minister also shed light on the role of media in the national security lens and said the importance of media for national security was of huge significance in the present era.
Saudi Arabia had undergone very fundamental changes under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the media was playing a fundamental role in this regard, he said.
“Any departure from the traditional way of governance to modern era practices is something like a paradigm shift which has occurred in the KSA.”
The minister added that it was not only welcomed in Saudi Arabia, but rather in the region and beyond. He mentioned that media and change went hand in hand during transformations triggered in any society as the media played a lead role in bringing about that change.
Asif said that at present, national security was fundamentally the economic security of a state.
The media, he said, was always the precursor of wars in previous times as it was always the media which brought to the forefront the strategic stance of warring parties. “I personally feel media is playing a critical part in Pakistan. Electronic and social media underwent a drastic increase exponentially.”
The minister underlined that the use of media by politicians, especially social media — which was "misused" — needed to be understood in the current scenario.
“It’s playing havoc with wars, policies and strategies through fake news. I personally feel that the place of media is absolutely fundamental. It has become the most important part of the national life.”
He also mentioned that the country was facing terrorism for decades where extremists were using media "very effectively" for recruitment.
The minister also responded to a question about the army chief's appointment.
He said the change of command in the armed forces was a "matter of sanctity which should be kept sacred". However, when this matter was brought into the political realm, this sanctity was "obliterated", he added.
“I had held the process of appointments of two army chiefs in my tenure as defence minister and there had never been such discussion on this issue. I have very high hopes that all institutions will perform their roles as defined by the Constitution.”