ISLAMABAD, Jan 29: Prime Minister’s Adviser on Interior Affairs Rehman Malik told the Senate on Thursday that a new strategy had been worked out to combat militancy in Swat.

Winding up a discussion on the situation in Swat, he said he was confident that law enforcers would succeed in flushing out terrorists from the valley in a few weeks.

He did not divulge details of the new strategy, but said he was ready to give an in-camera briefing to members of the house.

The adviser said the situation in Mingora had been brought under control in four to five days through the new policy.

He said the organisations behind the trouble in Swat included Al Qaeda, Tehrik-i-Taliban led by Maulana Fazlullah, Tanzeem-i-Islami, Tora Bora group and Qari Mushtaq group.

He said that a Taliban ‘commander’, Qari Hussain Ahmed, ran a training camp for suicide bombers in Waziristan and Maulana Naamdaar had a role in bringing suicide bombers from Waziristan to Swat.

Qari Hussain was reported killed in January 2008 when his house was destroyed in an air strike.

Mr Malik said the objective of the militants was not to enforce Shariat, but to destroy Pakistan.

He said the new strategy would effectively deal with elements challenging the government’s writ.

In a blunt warning to the terrorists, he said: “We are after you. We will not let you do what you want to do.”

However, he said, the government would continue to pursue its policy of dialogue, development and deterrence, adding that the use of military force was not the only option for restoring peace.

He asked the militants to stop killing innocent people, lay down arms and start working for the country.

The adviser said that army contingents and paramilitary forces in Swat had been re-energised, curfew had been imposed in some areas and joint pickets had been set up.

He said schools in the valley would get adequate protection on reopening after winter vacations.

Mr Malik appealed to the media to black out terrorists and desist from glorifying them. Those attacking politicians and infrastructure, including schools and basic health units, were enemies of the country, he said.

He told the house that around 1,200 civilians had been killed and 2,000 injured in violence, while 189 military personnel had lost their lives. He said 123 government schools and 10 private schools had been destroyed and many CD shops and barbers’ salons set ablaze. He said a so-called ‘Taliban court’ had ‘summoned’ 40 people.

He stressed that the nation, parliament, media and law enforcers needed to work together at this time.

Earlier, the Senate demanded immediate release and repatriation of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, who is detained in the US.

The demand was made by Leader of the House Mian Raza Rabbani and endorsed by the house.

Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Mushahid Hussain Sayed and chief of the house’s Functional Committee on Human Rights S.M. Zafar had presented the panels’ reports on the issue.

Mushahid Hussain’s report covered his committee’s meeting with Dr Siddiqui in Texas.

Senator Rabbani said the plight of Dr Siddiqui was a matter of concern and a blatant violation of human rights.

He said the government was ready to bear any additional expenditure on hiring a criminal law expert to plead her case, if needed.

Mr Malik said the US ambassador had told her recently that there had been progress in the case and the detained scientist would return to Pakistan soon.

He said he had twice discussed the issue with the ambassador and conveyed to her the questions which remained unanswered.

He said Dr Siddiqui had obviously been kidnapped and her family had lodged a case in Karachi.

He said the government was offering every possible human and legal help in the case and Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States had been asked to hire best lawyers. Their fee will be paid by the government.Mr Malik said he had taken up the issue of missing children of Dr Siddiqui with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and as a result one of her sons had been sent to Pakistan.

Referring to other missing people, he said the interior ministry was in contact with the provincial governments and law-enforcing agencies and making every possible effort for their recovery. He said a special proforma had been prepared to get more information about missing people from their families.

The adviser claimed that some of the missing people of Balochistan had gone to Afghanistan where they were being trained against Pakistan.

HAJ FARES: The Senate urged the government to subsidise Haj fares.

Deputy Chairman Mir Jan Mohammad Jamali asked leader of the house and Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar to convey the feelings of the house to the government. The minister said he would ask the religious affairs ministry to prepare a summary on the subject.

The deputy chairman said a decision should be taken before the announcement of the new Haj policy.

In reply to a supplementary question, the minister told the house hat PIA would be able to reduce its fares substantially if petrol prices stayed below $50 till the Haj season.

The defence minister said the airline had incurred a huge loss during the first nine months of last year, because of an unprecedented increase in fuel prices and financing cost and depreciation of the rupee. However, it broke even in the last three months of the year.

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