Will not tolerate any terrorism from across border: PM Shehbaz

Published March 20, 2024
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs a meeting of the federal apex committee on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTV
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs a meeting of the federal apex committee on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTV

Following recent skirmishes on the Pak-Afghan frontier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday asserted that the government would not tolerate any cross-border terrorism.

In the early hours of Monday, Pakistan struck Afghanistan’s Khost and Paktika provinces in “intelligence-based anti-terrorist operations”, which, according to the Afghan interim government, killed eight people.

The Foreign Office had confirmed the strikes, saying they were aimed at the Hafiz Gul Bahadur group, which recently targeted security forces in North Waziristan, martyring seven soldiers.

The airstrikes were responded to by Afghanistan forces which used heavy weapons, including mortars, to target troops across the border in Kurram and North Waziristan.

Tuesday remained relatively calmer as guns on both sides of the boundary remained silent, barring the Angoor Adda border.

Earlier this year, Pakistan conducted retaliatory strikes in Iran after the latter laun­ched attacks in the border town of Balochistan’s Panjgur, targeting what it described as bases for the militant group Jaish al-Adl.

Addressing a meeting of the federal apex committee today, PM Shehbaz said: “We will not tolerate any kind of terrorism from across the border. Under no circumstances.”

At the outset of the meeting, the committee prayed for the martyrs in last week’s North Waziristan attack. The premier recalled that thousands of lives had been lost to terrorism in the past decade.

“Unfortunately, again, terrorism has reared its head. The reality is that despite such great sacrifices and resources expended, our martyrs and warriors are risking their lives to eliminate terrorism,” PM Shehbaz said.

Recalling his visit to the martyrs’ families, the premier quoted the father of 23-year-old Captain Ahmed Badar as saying: “Prime minister, terrorism must be eradicated.”

“I also told him that we cannot tolerate this terrorism anymore. Pakistan’s borders are a red line against terrorism,” the prime minister said.

“We want to exist in a very peaceful environment with our neighbouring brothers — do trade, commerce and expand our relations — but unfortunately, if a neighbour’s land is used for terrorism, this is intolerable,” he asserted.

PM Shehbaz requested “neighbouring countries” to “come and sit” to devise a plan against terrorism “with sincerity of purpose to work towards eradicating it”. “I am hopeful that our neighbouring country will carefully consider my invitation,” he added.

PM, cabinet to forgo salaries, perks

Meanwhile, PM Shehbaz announced that he and the federal cabinet members have decided to voluntarily forgo their salaries and other perks and privileges in line with the government’s austerity drive.

According to Radio Pakistan, the premier said a committee has been established to cut the expenditures of the government.

Earlier, President Asif Ali Zardari and Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi had also decided the same, considering the country’s fragile economic situation.

Yesterday, the president, prime minister, chief justice, services chiefs, and bureaucrats, among others, were restricted to flying in certain classes to cut costs.

‘Need charter of unity’ for economic stability

 PM Shehbaz Sharif chairs a meeting of the federal apex committee on Wednesday. — PID
PM Shehbaz Sharif chairs a meeting of the federal apex committee on Wednesday. — PID

PM Shehbaz also called for “national unity”, stressing that political stability was vital to bring economic stability to the country.

“We need investments, for which we need to create a suitable environment in Pakistan — economically [and] politically — and create unity.”

“After the proposal of a Charter of Economy, we should also present a Charter of Unity”, the premier said, recalling the offer he made earlier in his victory speech in the Parliament.

Speaking about the staff-level agreement secured with the International Monetary Fund earlier today, PM Shehbaz said the country was compelled to secure another IMF package.

“We need a new programme; it is not with happiness but out of necessity. We need to strengthen our economic foundation [and] make it stand on its own feet. We need to break free from loans,” he said.

Commending the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), PM Shehbaz said work on bringing foreign investment to the country would continue under the newly formed government.

Stating that loan rollovers and debt were “damaging” for Pakistan, the premier said the government had taken a “conscious decision to try not to take further loans and only take loans when we have no other choice”. “Slowly, we will break away from taking loans,” he added.

Expressing the resolve to enhance the tax base and bring the potential sectors into the tax net, PM Shehbaz said the Federal Board of Revenue would be “100 per cent” digitalised.

‘Don’t want Afghanistan to be safe haven for terrorism’: US

Separately, the US reiterated it did not want Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorism.

Responding to a query, US State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said, “We’ve been very clear about the fact that we do not want Afghanistan to be or become a safe haven for terrorism.”

“When it comes to counterterrorism cooperation with our Pakistani partners, that’s something we engage with them on quite regularly, including other important bilateral consultations with them as well,” he added.

The department had earlier called on the interim Afghan government to prevent terrorist activities originating from Afghan soil, while also urging both neighbours to prioritise the protection of civilian lives during security operations.

Resurgent terrorism

Pakistan has witnessed an uptick in terror activities in 2023 year, especially in KP and Balochistan after the banned militant Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan ended its ceasefire with the government in November 2022.

The ISPR said earlier this month 10 militants were killed in two separate operations by security forces in the North Waziristan district. It added that Pakistan expected the Afghan government to fulfil its obligations and deny the use of Afghan soil by terrorists.

Last month, a late-night attack on a police station in Dera Ismail Khan was repulsed. Gunmen had mounted an attack using heavy weapons but fled in the cover of darkness when police personnel fired back.

In December last year, 23 soldiers were martyred and more than 30 troops wounded after militants belonging to the Tehreek-i-Jihad Pakistan (TJP) stormed a compound used by the military in Dera Ismail Khan’s Daraban area.

According to an annual security report issued by the Centre for Research and Security Studies, Pakistan witnessed 1,524 violence-related fatalities and 1,463 injuries from 789 terror attacks and counter-terror operations in 2023 — marking a record six-year high.

KP and Balochistan were the primary centres of violence, accounting for over 90 per cent of all fatalities and 84pc of attacks, including incidents of terrorism and security forces operations.

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