MMA condemns Fata operation

Published March 12, 2006

ISLAMABAD, March 11: The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) on Saturday condemned in the strongest terms the killing of innocent people in the military operation against so-called saboteurs in the North and South Waziristan agencies, while the government defended the action on the grounds that it could not tolerate parallel governments at any cost.

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and MMA secretary-general Maulana Fazlur Rahman challenged Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao to prove the killing of even a single foreigner in the whole operation in the North Waziristan Agency. According to Maulana Fazl, the country’s armed forces were engaged on the western borders only to please the US whose military was getting bogged down in Afghanistan.

Taking the floor in response to the MMA’s attack, Mr Sherpao said that troops had moved into the area in an effort to crack down on local miscreants and flush out the remnants of militant outfits run by foreigners who were aspiring to bring in a Taliban-style government.

An MMA lawmaker from North Waziristan Agency, Maulana Nek Zaman, said earlier that tribesmen in the area were facing a brutal onslaught from government forces. “Our people are being killed at random. A large number of innocent citizens have become victims of bombing and strafing,” Mr Zaman said.

He said that electricity and water supply had been disrupted and tribesmen had been forced to flee their homes.

In a hard-hitting speech, Maulana Fazlur Rahman recalled the president’s statement during his maiden appearance in parliament in which he had said, “we will resolve our eastern border tension through dialogue and we will use force on our western borders”.

“This statement speaks volumes for the premeditated military action in the tribal belt to provide a cushion to the US troops engaged in incursions across the border and to facilitate their indefinite stay in Afghanistan,” he said.

He questioned the rationale behind deployment of 70,000 to 78,000 troops to man the western borders when US and allied troops were stationed in the neighbouring country.

He alleged that the Pakistan army had been deployed in the tribal areas to serve as a tool in the hands of US forces which had a secret agenda to divide Pakistan and for this purpose it had made ulema and religious people their target.

Maulana Fazl claimed that all key decisions about the country had been taken by the army general headquarters and whatever the interior minister said was in line with the expectations of his office. He said the March 1 operation in Saidgai was undertaken after a truce had been reached between the administration and the elders of North Waziristan Agency.

He called upon the house to take notice of the provocative actions of soldiers against innocent tribesmen who had taken up arms for their defence and as such had not violated the law of the land.

He said the flawed policies of the government were dragging the country along the path of destruction and the mistake of Bengal was being repeated. “We will continue our protest against the killing of innocent people and will resist this situation.”

In response to the points raised by Maulana Fazl and Maulana Zaman, the interior minister said the government had asked Maulana Fazl and the NWFP chief minister to cooperate with each other and bring peace to the area. He said the government was still seeking cooperation from political forces to help normalise the situation in the tribal belt.

Mr Sherpao said miscreants were trying to take the law in their own hands by wresting control of government buildings and challenging the writ of the government.

He also warned of a spillover of the saboteur-inspired resistance to government authority from tribal areas to settled areas while referring to two explosions in Dera Ismail Khan and three in Tank districts.

He also mentioned attacks on a commandant of Frontier Corps and North Waziristan Agency’s political agent.

Mr Sherpao said the government had launched a crackdown on local and foreign militants only after it had exhausted all its options for dialogue.

He called upon members of parliament to support the government’s efforts to establish the writ of law and help settle the issue through negotiations instead of sheltering foreigners on home soil.

He chose not to accept the opposition leader’s challenge to prove that a single foreigner had been killed in the recent operations but refuted allegations of US helicopters violating Pakistani airspace.

Abdul Mujeeb Pirzada of People’s Party Parliamentarians raised the issue of violation of the constitution in announcement of National Finance Commission (NFC) formula by the president without being awarded by the NFC.

He asked the chair to allow an adjournment motion on the subject which he (speaker) had killed in his chamber so that the matter is discussed threadbare in the lower house.

Mr Pirzada referred to a letter dated Jan 19, 2006, whereby the president had used the powers of NFC without the recommendations of the commission coming.

He said parliamentary sovereignty had neither been established nor recognised adding that the parliamentary committee under Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain had already made its recommendations on Balochistan, but these had not been implemented so far.

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