ISLAMABAD: Opposition leaders have reacted angrily to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s revelation in an interview to the Turkish official television channel that the government of Pakistan is engaged in talks with some outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) groups, and called for a special session of parliament to discuss such a sensitive matter.
Opposition parties labelled it as an “NRO” for the terrorists who are responsible for killings over 70,000 Pakistanis, including security forces personnel.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senior leader Khwaja Asif said that the Prime Minister should have taken the nation into confidence over this sensitive matter given the bloodshed Pakistan has witnessed at the hands of these terrorists.
He pointed out that thousands of Pakistani soldiers and police personnel were martyred in the war against terrorism as were the students of the Army Public School (APS). “These facts cannot simply be whitewashed,” he added.
Rana Sanaullah, another senior leader of PML-N accused the Prime Minister of giving an “NRO” to the proscribed TTP which mercilessly launched hundreds of attacks in Pakistan not only against the armed forces but against children in schools, markets, mosques and Imam Bargahs.
“The Prime Minister is willing to hold talks with the TTP, but he is reluctant to consult opposition leader in National Assembly [Shehbaz Sharif] on constitutional matters, such as appointment of chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB),” he pointed out.
Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) secretary-general Nayyar Hussain Bukhari said that a special session of parliament should be summoned to discuss the “extremely sensitive” statement of the Prime Minister on the government’s talks with the TTP, adding that the premier needs to take parliament into confidence on the matter.
“The Prime Minister’s statement is tantamount to rubbing salt into the wounds of victim families of the TTP terrorism,” he asserted, adding that the government has bypassed parliament by initiating “secret” talks with the banned outfit.
Awami National Party (ANP) spokesman Zahid Khan, while giving his party’s reaction, strongly criticized the Prime Minister for his alleged leniency towards the terrorist groups who had blood of thousands of innocent civilians and armed forces personnel on their hands.
“In what capacity did Imran Khan give such a “shameful” statement? Has he forgotten the blood of the innocent civilians, including the students of the APS? Is he going to pardon those terrorists who played football with the heads of our martyred soldiers?” he asked.
Zahid Khan, whose party was in power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from 2008-13 and lost many leaders to TTP’s terrorist attacks, pointed out that when TTP-Swat approached the government for talks in 2008, the party first consulted political parties at the provincial level, then took the provincial assembly of KP into confidence, before forwarding the matter to the Parliament.
After the parliament gave a go-ahead for talks, a process was initiated with the TTP-Swat, but it soon collapsed as the TTP was unwilling to regret its killing spree or give up its weapons resulting in the launch of operation Rah-e-Rast in May 2009 against the terrorists in Swat.
He pointed out that after the APS attack on December 16, 2014, all political parties and the security establishment agreed on a 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) in which it was decided to crush all militant groups; however, it was also agreed that talks will only be held with Baloch separatists.
In May 2013, the then PML-N government also made an attempt to hold talks with the outlawed TTP, but after several rounds of direct talks, this second attempt at talks also failed and consequently, operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched against the terrorists in North Waziristan in June 2014.