Accepting constitution a must for any talks with TTP: Rana Sana

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Thursday said the recently-held National Security Committee (NSC) meeting had decided that there will be “no talks with any terrorist or militant group”.

Rana Sana said the NSC had decided that any talks, if needed, should be held with the Afghan government [Afghan Taliban] so that the importance of the Doha agreement, wherein the country had vowed to not allow its soil to be used against others, could be stressed.

“If that is implemented, then the issue of terrorism in Pakistan and other countries will be solved, and Pakistan will be safe if Afghanistan honours its promise.”

He was asked about the explicit threat issued by the TTP to the PPP and the PML-N for “openly declaring war against the TTP to appease America” during a press conference in Islamabad.

The TTP statement pointedly mentioned PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif by name, as well as their respective parties, and warned religious parties against “activities against us”.

Rana Sana said: “Let me make it clear once again that it is mandatory for them to abide by the law and to assure the state that they accepts its writ.”

The minister was also asked about the Afghan government’s announcement that a network of Daesh militants involved in the attack on Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul had been killed in an operation.

He said that Pakistan had received the information but it would be treated as mere information until it verified by the interior ministry. “If it is so, then we welcome it and it is their responsibility to provide security to officials in Afghanistan.”

Rana Sana made it clear that surrendering before the constitution was a prerequisite for holding any talks with the TTP. “If the TTP decides to come under the ambit of the Constitution then we can hold talks with them,” Rana Sana told reporters.

The NSC, the federal minister recalled, stressed that no form of militancy would be tolerated and a “zero-tolerance” policy had been adopted against terrorism. “There will no distinction between good and bad terrorists.”

Rana Sana said the NSC had also decided to strengthen the counter-terrorism departments (CTDs) of all the provinces and enhance their capability. “There are also talks about forming a national CTD.”

The minister informed reporters that 67 percent of the total terror attacks last year had taken place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 31 percent in Balochistan, while Sindh and Punjab accounted for 1 percent of the strikes.

Rana Sana’s latest statement is a continuation of what he had stated earlier when he ruled out any talks with the outlawed TTP or any other terror outfit, as he shared the details of the NSC meeting.

He had even threatened to target the TTP militants in Afghanistan if Kabul does not take action to dismantle them.

The minister said that Pakistan had decided to share evidence with the Taliban government as the terrorists based in Afghanistan were involved in terror activities across the border. He reiterated that international laws allowed action in case of aggression in self-defence.

The interior minister said Afghanistan had promised that its territory would not be used against any other country, and the Afghan government would be asked to fulfil that promise.

He added, in an interview, that the army chief had categorically said mixed messages should not be given on the issue of negotiations with terrorists, the narrative should be clear that there would be no negotiations with any terrorists. Gen Asim Munir made the point during the meeting in clear terms with the evidence, said Rana Sana.

Self-defence Pakistan’s inherent right

Reiterating the US support on the issue of terrorism, the State Department on Thursday again made it clear that Pakistan had every right to defend itself against the “enduring challenge”.

“Of course, Pakistan has every right to defend itself. This is ultimately, in some cases, a shared threat to the region, and it’s one we take very seriously, as do our Pakistani partners, of course,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told a daily press briefing.

He was responding to a question about the terrorist hideouts in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The latest statement came a day after the United States said Pakistan enjoyed a right to defend itself from terrorism as the country has suffered tremendously from terrorist attacks.

On Thursday, when asked whether Washington is encouraging Pakistan to take any action on the subject, Price said that the US was a partner of Pakistan but did not have any influence on any decisions made by the country.

He said, “Pakistan will do what’s in its self-interest, and it will take action when it deems appropriate based on the inherent right of self-defense”.

According to the spokesperson, terrorism is a “threat that Pakistan itself faces” and has suffered huge losses in terms of precious lives in various terrorist attacks led by militants operating in the border regions.

Price said the presence of militants had been an “enduring challenge” for the US, NATO and “certainly for Afghanistan’s neighbours, who have most frequently been the victims of attacks that have emanated from Afghanistan”.

Explaining his country’s position, he said the US condemned any threat of violence from TTP or any other terrorist group. “US and Pakistan do indeed have a shared interest in ensuring that the Taliban live up to the commitments and that terrorist groups like ISIS-K, like the TTP, like Al-Qaeda are no longer able to threaten regional security,” he added.

He said Pakistan was a close security partner with US but he would not comment on any plans or operations Islamabad may be taking or contemplating.

“The terrorist threat emanating from Afghanistan has in the past not only presented a threat to Pakistan but to the region. So these are questions for the Pakistani government. We are a partner to Pakistan, but ultimately its decisions are its decisions,” Price said.

The US continues to call on the Taliban to uphold the counterterrorism commitments and pledges to curtail the ability of international terrorists to be able to operate on Afghan soil, he said.

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