ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday called for revisiting the strategy to deal with the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has stepped up terror activities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“It is time to review decisions we took or we were made to take with regards to internal security and terrorism,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari said in response to a question about the resurgence of the TTP in KP, during a press conference at the Foreign Office.
“There is nothing wrong in admitting that we were wrong about a few things and right about some other things and re-examine our approach,” he said, adding that the residents of KP and South Waziristan had always supported peace and confronted terrorism.
“People of Pakistan made these terrorists run away and they feel, right or wrong, that some terrorists are returning and are protesting, which is their right. There is a need for re-calibrating our strategy for dealing with this issue in the context of the developments in the region,” the minister said.
Says nothing wrong in admitting ‘some mistakes’ were made; asks Afghan Taliban to fulfil commitments on human rights, girls’ education
“I suggested to one of the questions before you that perhaps it is time for an in-camera internal review on decisions regarding terrorism and internal security.”
Mr Bhutto-Zardari said it was the government’s responsibility to “ensure peace, rule of law, and the writ of the state”. “We can’t afford a return to the dangerous days of terrorism.”
In reply to a question about war or negotiation being the only method available to deal with the TTP, he said: “I never think it is as easy as black and white — either war or negotiation.” He said he had a “different approach” to the issue from the previous government’s decisions.
He said there was a significant increase in terrorist attacks after regional changes in the past year or so, referring to the Karachi University attack and numerous incidents in KP.
The foreign minister’s remarks came a couple of days after eight policemen and soldiers were martyred in two separate incidents in Lakki Marwat and Bajaur districts.
The attacks by the TTP have been on the rise since September when the group’s ceasefire with the army effectively ended. Most of the attacks have happened in and around Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, South Waziristan and North Waziristan districts in KP.
The talks between Pakistani officials and the TTP first started in October last year but broke down in December. These were later resumed in May this year. The process, however, broke down due to a deadlock on revocation of the merger of erstwhile tribal areas with KP.
‘World’s patience running thin’
Mr Bhutto-Zardari asked Afghanistan’s de facto rulers — Taliban — to fulfil their commitments with the international community regarding human rights, particularly on girls’ education and preventing terrorist groups from operating from their country, warning that world’s patience was running thin.
“The world’s patience with Taliban is wearing out. But still, we will advocate engagement with Afghanistan while avoiding mistakes of the past,” he asserted.
“As far as recognition of Taliban government is concerned, Pakistan would not go solo and would rather remain with international consensus,” he added.
The foreign minister urged the Taliban to show “practical progress” in preventing terrorist groups from operating from sanctuaries in Afghanistan and threatening Pakistan and other countries.
Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2022