A day after an attack claimed by the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) took the lives of four people in Quetta, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah denied the initiation of formal talks with the terror outfit and vowed a crushing response by security forces to nip the terror threat in the bud.
Addressing a press conference in the federal capital on Thursday, the interior minister said the government had not reached a settlement with the banned outfit, nor had it initiated any sort of formal dialogue with the banned group in the past. In an apparent reference to parlays with the outfit before the end of the ceasefire, the minister said these were the kind of talks “which are held even in a state of war”.
According to Mr Sanaullah, the military leadership had been authorised to hold dialogue with the TTP under the Constitution, but only with those who were ready to lay down arms and peacefully become a part of society. He, however, said there were several factions within the TTP, some of whom wanted reconciliation while some still wanted to fight the Pakistani state.
“Some of them were interested in talks while some [are interested] in sabotaging the process.”
He said the doors will remain open for those interested in peace and dialogue and at the same time terrorism will be crushed with full force. He said military operations were underway against the banned outfit and the army had the capacity to defeat terrorism.
TTP attacks ‘alarming’
However, the minister also raised alarm over the TTP suicide attack in Quetta and said that it should also be a cause for alarm for the Afghan government, which had held out an assurance to the world that Afghan soil would not be used for terrorist activity anywhere.
Answering a question, he regretted that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mehmood Khan did not attend a recent security meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. He said KP had neither taken the federal government on board about what was being done to check the rising trend of terrorism in the province, nor had it sought any assistance from the Centre.
He emphasised the need for provincial governments, security agencies, and authorities, particularly in KP and Balochistan, to address the issue of rising militancy in an effective manner. “They need to take this matter seriously, and whenever they will need the help of the federal government and its agencies, we will assist them without any delay,” he added.
About the PTI’s plan to dissolve the provincial assemblies of Punjab and KP, he said it would be an undemocratic and in a sense “unconstitutional step”. The federal government will exercise all constitutional options, including a no-trust motion and the governor’s rule, to thwart the move for the dissolution of the assemblies.
Elaborating his point about the unconstitutionality of the step, he said if the two provincial assemblies get elected for a five-year term following the dissolution, there will be no caretaker governments in Punjab and KP at the time of general elections and it “would disturb the constitutional scheme”. “An attempt is being made to damage the system for free and fair elections,” he remarked.
Moreover, he said the Constitution envisages a situation where the prime minister or a chief minister can dissolve an assembly, and dissolution in the absence of such a “situation” would therefore be unconstitutional.
He said in case the two provincial assemblies were dissolved, the government will see if polling can be delayed until the general elections. He made it clear that the PML-N was not afraid of going to elections, if they were to be held within 90 days.
“Our stance is for assemblies to complete their terms, which was once also their (PTI’s) stance.”
He said Nawaz Sharif will be available to lead the election campaign and expressed confidence that the PML-N will emerge victorious in elections for Punjab Assembly.