ISLAMABAD: In a move that is being seen as a significant development amid rising political temperatures in the country, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday convened a multi-party conference (MPC) to discuss “important challenges” being faced by Pakistan.

According to an announcement by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, the MPC will be held in Islamabad on Feb 7, for which an invitation has also been extended to PTI chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan.

The invitation to the PTI was formally delivered to party leaders Pervez Khattak and Asad Qaiser by former speaker and federal minister, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq.

The minister has also asked the PTI to nominate two representatives who would attend a meeting of the provincial apex committee, to be held in Peshawar today (Friday).

Multi-party conference scheduled for Feb 7; PTI representatives also invited to today’s apex committee meeting in Peshawar

The committee, which was formed in 2015 following the Army Public School attack to oversee the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism, will meet at the Governor House and comprise all stakeholders, including law enforcement and intelligence officials.

According to the official announcement, the situation developing in the wake of the Jan 30 attack on Peshawar’s Police Lines and the upgradation of police and Counter-Terrorism Department’s capabilities would come under discussion in the apex committee meeting.

However, there was no official word from the PTI on the invitation, which comes three days after the deadly suicide attack that claimed the lives of over 100, mostly policemen, in Peshawar.

The MPC also comes as the country faces one of the worst economic crises in its history, in addition to the serious security threats stemming from a resurgence in the activities of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Moreover, there has been a demand from a number of political parties to call a joint sitting of the parliament on the issue and seek a briefing from the military leadership.

Since the Peshawar blast, a war of words is going in between the leaders of the ruling coalition and the PTI, blaming each other for the recent rise in terrorism.

Parties in the ruling coalition blame the recent wave of terror on the ‘wrong policy’ of the previous PTI government to engage militants and allow them to resettle in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

During a recent session of the National Assembly, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had referred to in-camera briefings given to parliamentarians by the then-military leadership during the PTI’s tenure, after the Taliban takeover of Kabul, terming the decision to resettle TTP militants “faulty”.

The defence minister had claimed that the briefings had remained “inconclusive” and they were only informed about the already taken decisions which were never endorsed by the parliament.

At the time, Rana Sanallah had informed the assembly that the previous regime had told them that there were some 8,000 militants, along with 25,000 of their family members, including children, who should be given an opportunity to surrender before the law.

“Maybe this policy was developed with good intentions, but the decision proved to be wrong,” the interior minister said, adding that the nation was suffering today because of this policy.

The National Assembly, however, was found divided on the issue of launching another military operation against the tribal areas as the members of the religious parties, especially the JUI-F, opposed the idea, claiming that the previous such operations had not produced any results and, instead, caused huge sufferings to the local population.

Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2023

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