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Surgical strikes, peace talks to go side by side: Cabinet

26 February, 2014

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ISLAMABAD: The government on Tuesday decided to continue surgical strikes against Taliban in tribal northwest alongside efforts to engage the terrorists in peace dialogue, as federal cabinet put its stamp on what is being billed the country's first National Security Policy.

The cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, told the insurgents to announce and implement an unconditional ceasefire if they were serious in resolving the issue through talks, as the government reiterated its commitment to establish writ of the state in the troubled areas at all costs.

"Government's writ will be established throughout the country under all circumstances. Establishing peace in the country is our ultimate goal. We have to ensure safety and security of our citizens," sources quoted the prime minister as having told the cabinet meeting.

"Government launched the peace process with TTP with sincerity. We arranged travel of our negotiators to Waziristan for consultations with the TTP team. But, they (Taliban) have rendered the whole process meaningless," the prime minister added.

It was decided in the meeting that government will hold dialogue with only those who surrender their arms, accept writ of the state and pledge to shun the violence. "While those attacking the security forces or civilian population will be paid back in the same coins," the meeting decided.

The cabinet agreed that special arrangements will be put in place to evacuate people from the troubled areas. It also announced formation of a special committee headed by federal minister Qadir Baloch to facilitate migrating of IDPs from North Waziristan in the wake of air strikes on terrorist hideouts. The secretariat of the committee will be established at the Governor's House in Peshawar, while Qadir Baloch will directly coordinate with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the issue.

The meeting decided that government will make sure that women and children stay safe in the military operation against terrorists. Two cabinet members - JUI-F's Akram Durrani and Abdul Ghafoor Haideri - did not attend the meeting in protest against airstrikes in Waziristan.

Under the new security policy, a joint intelligence directorate will be set up to make the exchange of information more effective on federal and provincial levels.

The National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) will act as the focal organisation for national security. Heads of the armed forces will also be among members of the authority. The meeting decided that all decisions regarding fight against terrorism will be taken at the highest levels.

The 86-page draft of the National Internal Security Policy (NISP) 2013-2018, which was given to the ministers but taken back at the end of the meeting, notes that the total strength of 33 national security organisations, including police and other civil armed forces, both at the federal as well as provincial levels exceeds 600,000, which is more than the strength of the sixth largest standing army of the world, ie Pakistan.

The document says Pakistan is the country most affected by terrorism in the world after Iraq. "Some 13,721 terror incidents were reported in Pakistan during 2001-13, which are marginally less than those in Iraq. From 2001 to 2005, there were 523 terror incidents in Pakistan, but the number rose to 13,198 during 2007 to November 2013," the document reads.

"Some 48,994 people were killed in the country, including 5,272 personnel of the law enforcement agencies, from 2001 to November 2013, with 17,642 of them having been killed in just three years from 2011 to 2013." Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is expected to give a detailed policy statement about the approved policy on floor of the National assembly on Wednesday (today).

Information Minister said after the meeting that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif still prefers to bring peace to the country through dialogue with Taliban. He said government will make a formal announcement if it decides to launch full-fledged military operation in North Waziristan.


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