ISLAMABAD: As the Senate debated acts of terrorism and expulsion of illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Leader of the House in the Senate and PML-N leader Ishaq Dar on Friday blamed an understanding reached with Kabul in 2018 and the subsequent release of hardcore TTP militants for a surge in acts of terrorism in the country.

Speaking in the Senate, he said the PML-N government soon after coming into power had taken concrete steps against the menace of terrorism which bore fruit, but regretted that it reared its ugly head again after “a policy of U-turn” was adopted in 2018.

Referring to Operation Zarb-i-Azb launched in North Waziristan along the border with Afghanistan in 2014, Mr Dar said it was a difficult decision. He said that Rs100bn per year was required to finance that operation. Initially, he said, the operation was expected to conclude in a year, but ultimately it took around four years. He also mentioned the Operation Raddul Fasad, which was launched to eliminate sleeper cells of terrorists across the country.

He requested the chair to ask the caretaker government to give an in-camera briefing to the Senate on the issue.

Claims hundreds of ‘hardened terrorists’ released after talks with Afghan Taliban

“You can see the statistics. The numbers will speak where it was in 2013, 14, 16 and 17,” he said, adding that a change of policy was witnessed after 2018.

He said that after Taliban’s return to power in Kabul, a high-profile visit from Pakistan to Afghanistan took place. “It did not stop there. Hundreds of hardened terrorists were released under an understanding reached in Kabul,” he said.

“What was that understanding? Would anyone tell the nation? Mr Dar asked. He recalled that the nation came to know about that understanding only after watching images of Pakistan’s responsible people visiting Kabul and holding talks there. Underlining the need for swiftly acting against acts of terrorism, he said one must not wait for February 2024 elections for it.

Earlier, PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani said that the country in the first half of 2023 saw a total of 271 attacks, which claimed 389 lives and left 656 people injured. The second half looks no better, he said, noting that a rise in attacks on security personnel and installations of armed forces had been witnessed after the return of illegal Afghans from the country.

“It should be kept in mind that the caretaker government took such an im­­portant policy decision pertaining to the national security, which perhaps is not within its domain, and did not take the Senate into confidence over the matter.

He said another reason perhaps could be CPEC as Western powers, in order to confine China, were helping destabilisation of Pakistan. He said that for these West­e­­rn powers, India has become the number one country in the region to contain Chi­na.

The surge in acts of terrorism also has a direct nexus with the deal we made with the TTP., he said, adding, “It is said that the deal was made for making the TTP the militant wing of the political government”. He said the terms of that deal have not been made public till today.

“In such a scenario Pakistan’s internal fault lines, particularly in Balochistan which are being aided by international forces to destabilise Pakistan, need to be approached very carefully,” he said.

He said peace and stability in Balochistan will come only through dialogue and recognition of the rights of its people. Calling for free, fair and transparent elections in the country, the PPP leader said that a level playing field should be provided to all political parties.

He also stressed that arrests and detentions on frivolous charges should be avoided and those arrested and detained under charges of violence against state installations should be dealt with in accordance with law. He said all parties should be allowed to carry out election campaigns.

PPP Senator Bahramand Khan Tangi welcomed the decision of the caretaker government to deport illegal immigrants from the country.

He said that people belonging to some political parties were opposing the government’s decision of deportation of illegal Afghan immigrants from the country only for political point scoring.

“The illegal immigrants should have left Pakistan within the deadline given to them by the Pakistan government,” he said, adding that Pakistan has its own Constitution but some Pakistanis have become advocates of illegal immigrants.

“We should talk for our own country and should support state institutions,” said Senator Tangi. He said the decision of repatriation of illegal Afghans was bei­ng given the colour of nationalism and eth­­nicity. He said Pakistan wanted to have good relations with all its neighbou­rs, inc­luding Afghanistan, on an equality basis.

“But if you are living in Pakistan illegally, then you should leave and go back to your homeland,” he said, adding that some people take this as hatred and war.

The senator said the government should move forward with its plan of deportation of all illegal foreigners and focus on big cities where these people were involved in crimes.

Published in Dawn, November 11th, 2023

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