PTI Chairman Imran Khan revealed that he, during his stint as prime minister, had planned to settle the outlawed TTP fighters in erstwhile FATA with the help of Afghan Taliban.
The statement comes as his rivals have been accusing him of being the reason behind the rise of extremism and terrorism in the country, especially Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In this connection, the Pakhtun nationalists have been especially protesting against what they call an organised attempt to allow the extremists to return to the region.
On Tuesday, Imran warned against the destabilizing Afghanistan as he addressed a seminar organised by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on terrorism in Islamabad. He said the PTI government had planned to relocate at least 5,000 TTP fighters and their family members which amount to about 35,000. But the plan did not materialise as provinces refused to foot the bill, he added.
There is a clear policy shift about how to deal with the TTP and terrorism as the National Security Committee (NSC) after a meeting recently made it clear that the terrorists were as the “enemies of Pakistan”.
Promising to respond with full force to those challenging the country¸ the NSC said, “The meeting expressed determination that terrorists are enemies of Pakistan. The entire nation is united on one narrative against terrorism and terrorists. Those who challenge Pakistan will get a full-force response,” read a statement.
In this connection, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced that Pakistan would adopt a “zero tolerance policy” for terrorists challenging its writ. “Peace is non-negotiable,” he added.
The official statement after the NSC meeting said the law and order situation in the country had worsened over the past few months as terrorist groups, including the TTP, executed terror attacks across the country.
“This [terrorism] will be dealt with the full force of the state. Pakistan’s security is uncompromisable and the full writ of the state will be maintained on every inch of the territory.”
Meanwhile, Shehbaz emphasised that the war against terrorism would be led by federal and provincial governments as per National Action Plan (NAP) in accordance with National Internal Security Policy (NISP) with people-centric socio-economic development as a priority while armed forces will provide resolute deterrence and a secure conducive and enabling environment.
Later, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had told media that the NSC had decided that there would be “no talks with any terrorist or militant group”.
But Imran on Tuesday said that the fall of Kabul and rise of the Afghan Taliban to power provided Pakistan with a golden opportunity to deal with the TTP threat. “The Afghan Taliban pressurised the TTP, which had over 5,000 fighters among its 40,000-strong group, to go back to Pakistan and we took a number of steps to deal with it.”
The former prime minister was of the view if Kabul stopped its cooperation then the situation would aggravate. “If we cannot continue good relations with Afghanistan, the new war on terror will become a curse for us. I said ‘absolutely not’ [to supposed request for US bases in Pakistan] because I wanted to save Pakistanis because while drone attacks were allowed, in retaliations Pakistanis were killed,” he said.