TTP is Pakistan’s absolute red line

In WASHINGTON Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has suggested letting neighbouring countries know that the outlawed TTP is an “absolute red line” for Pakistan and it would not allow anyone to cross that line.

“As far as the TTP (Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan) is concerned, it’s absolutely our red line. It is something that we will not tolerate,” said the foreign minister while speaking at the Atlantic Council, Washington, on Tuesday evening.

“And absolutely we will be willing to consider each and every single option to ensure the safety and security of our people.”

As the foreign minister stressed the need for combating militants in his Washington talk, Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram told the UN Security Council in New York that engagement with the Taliban was the best option to stabilise the region.

“Coercion and isolation have not proved successful in the past; they will prove to be counter-productive now and in the future,” said Ambassador Akram while participating in a UN debate on the situation in Afghanistan. “We need a coherent and practical plan to realise the objectives of the international community through patient engagement with the interim government,” the Pakistani envoy told the 15-member Council.

Bilawal says Islamabad willing to consider all options to ensure citizens’ safety and security

Mr Bhutto-Zardari made a similar observation in his talk at the Atlantic Council, urging world powers to work with Afghanistan’s de facto rulers to stabilise the region. When the moderator, Uzair Younus, asked if Pakistan could deploy troops inside Afghanistan or on the border to stop attacks by Afghanistan-based militant groups, the minister suggested using the “hammer and anvil” strategy, with Kabul’s cooperation, to eliminate militancy.

The chief Pakistani diplomat pointed out that despite these border and cross-border attacks, the situation was far more secure and stable now than it was in 2007, when Pakistan launched a series of operations against the TTP and other militants.

“But those things can be put at risk if this goes unchecked. And obviously that would undermine any hope, whether it is CPEC or any other form of economic activity. Nobody wants to put lives at risk in order to conduct business,” he warned.

“That’s why I have been particularly hawkish on the issue of the TTP, and on the issue of terrorism in general. I believe that recent events in the region are alarming, not only the border incidents but the recent Bannu incident, which our security commanders have very bravely managed to overcome,” he said.

The foreign minister, however, stressed the need to “impress on our neighbours, particularly Afghan­istan” that they have to demonstrate the will and the capacity to take on the TTP or other groups functioning from there.

He acknowledged that there’s room for improvement in Pakistan’s Afghan policy — as there’s in America’s — and “we need to be serious about what we can do going forward”.

“Are we going learn from our mistakes to ensure that we do not repeat them,” he asked. “The answer to that question is going to define the safety and stability of Afghanistan, the safety and stability of Pakistan and the safety and stability of our region.”

Pakistan’s number one option, he said, was to get the Afghan interim government to demonstrate that they had the capacity to deal with this issue.

Separately, the foreign minister also met Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman where they discussed Pakistan’s efforts to recover from devastating floods and the upcoming Jan 9 International Con­ference on Climate Resilient Pakistan in Geneva.

According to a readout issued by the State Department, the US official expressed condolences for Pakistani lives lost in recent terrorist attacks, and they committed to strengthen cooperation between the two countries.

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