ISLAMABAD, May 18 The government and the military on Monday got the much-needed backing from the country's political class and, barring a few minor exceptions, leaders of political parties from across the broad spectrum supported the efforts to eliminate the menace of religious extremism and terrorism, but cautioned against collateral damage or alienation of the general public.

Perhaps the biggest, and much-needed, support came from Mian Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) which proved to be the moot point in the shaping of opinion during the All Parties Conference called by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

In fact, the support from the main opposition party in a way compelled some of the opposition groups, particularly the Jamaat-i-Islami, Imran Khan's Tehrik-i-Insaaf and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam either to take a back seat or to dilute their criticism of the ongoing security operation against the Taliban in Swat and adjoining areas.

If there was any doubt about the PML-N's position at the conference, Mr Sharif's closest lieutenant Raja Zafarul Haq came out to declare that the party had fully backed the military operation in the Malakand region.

Later talking to DawnNews, Mr Haq said that if similar conditions prevailed in the Waziristan region, his party would not hesitate to support a military operation there as well.

Premier Gilani had convened the APC to discuss the ongoing military operation and evolve a joint strategy.

And despite some reservations expressed by a few of the relatively smaller parties and groups, the APC succeeded in adopting a joint declaration which, in essence, supported government's efforts to restore peace and constitutional rule in the troubled region of Malakand and beyond.

The APC attended by leaders of 43 major political and religious parties discussed in details the situation arising out of the activities of militants and extremists in parts of the NWFP that forced the government to undertake military action.

It was one of those rare events in the country's politics where almost every politician and party that matter were present at the Prime Minister's House, not only to express their views on one of the gravest situations faced by the country since the fall of Dhaka, but also to try and evolve a consensus on meeting the challenge.

So right from the prime minister and other senior members of the PPP-led government to Nawaz Sharif, and Jamaat leaders to those from the two JUIs, and Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Aftab Ahmed Sherpao to Asfandyar Wali Khan and Imran Khan and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain to those from the MQM were all present to deliberate on the matter.

A few of them, though arch rivals and real adversaries in politics, not only shook hands and exchanged pleasantries but in the end also agreed to a joint declaration.

Inside sources told Dawn that a majority of the leaders had endorsed the government's decision to launch the military operation after exhausting all other options, including the so-called Nizam-i-Adl regulation.

According to them, JI, JUI-S, PTI and JUI-F leaders expressed their reservations over the military action.

Talking to reporters after the conference, JI leader Liaquat Baloch said his party had impressed upon the government that the use of military might should have been avoided.

Perhaps Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed described the decision more aptly when he said “Majority of the participants supported the military action and no one opposed it.”

Prime Minister Gilani informed the leaders that the military operation was proceeding successfully and the army would remain in the region till peace was restored and displaced people were able to return to their homes.

He, however, said the military operation was not a permanent solution, adding “Unless political forces step in to resolve the situation, there is no guarantee to a sustainable solution (of the problem of terrorism and extremism).”

He said the army action had become necessary after the militants refused to acknowledge the writ of the state, treated innocent people with brutality and made their lives miserable.

“It was, therefore, decided to call in the army in the best national interest and for the safety of our own people,” he said, adding that rehabilitation of IDPs was as important as the military action.

He said “The government will leave no stone unturned for their rehabilitation and for reconstruction of damaged property. We are determined to defeat every conspiracy being hatched in the name of Islam.”

Nuclear assets

The prime minister rejected a perception that Pakistan's nuclear assets would fall into the hands of militants and said that nuclear assets were safe and anyone daring to compromise these would be dealt with severely.

A 16-point resolution unanimously adopted at the APC resolved to strive to unite the nation in the face of insurgency in Swat and Malakand, struggle collectively for security and welfare of the IDPs and to jointly combat terrorism, extremism and sectarianism.

The following is the text of the resolution

1. Recalled, the consensus resolution passed by a joint sitting of parliament on October 22, 2008;

2. Reiterated, its support of the resolution passed on October 2, 2008, and the subsequent recommendations made by the parliamentary committee on national security as required by the resolution and impressed upon the need for speedy implementation;

3. Reaffirmed, its commitment to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and sovereignty of the state of Pakistan;

4. Emphasised, the need to establish and maintain the writ of the state and ensure supremacy of the rule of law;

5. Condemned, all violent challenges to the Constitution and the state of Pakistan;

6. Expressed, grief for the martyrdom of security personnel and innocent civilians;

7. Maintaining, that the safety and security of civilians is paramount and it should be ensured that minimum harm is caused to the non-combatant civilian population;

8. Re-emphasised, the need to ensure the safety, wellbeing and rehabilitation in their respective areas of the internally displaced persons;

9. Called upon, the Pakistani people to respond as one nation to mitigate the suffering of our brothers and sisters, the Internally Displaced Persons;

10. Emphasised, that Pakistan is a vibrant dynamic democracy;

11 Reaffirmed, that Pakistan's nuclear assets were under an effective command and control authority;

12 Asserted, that the strategic decisions regarding military issues, including troops' deployment, are the sole prerogative of the state of Pakistan;

13. Appreciated, the tremendous sacrifices given by the Pakistani people economically, politically and in terms of human life while fighting terrorism, more than any other country or people;

14. Condemned, the violation of Pakistan's optical economic and territorial sovereignty, including drone attacks; and

15. Conveyed, that Pakistan is a sovereign state and any aid, economic or military which carries cardinalities will be counter-productive.