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Govt to use 'other options' if Taliban talks fail: Nisar

28 February, 2014

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PESHAWAR: Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan said on Thursday that if the peace dialogue with the Taliban fails the government will use other options to establish durable peace.

Nisar said that the government was in contact with some militant groups, as talks with the main Taliban faction remained stalled. A day after pledging to press ahead with deadly air strikes on Taliban targets in the country's restive tribal regions, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said dialogue was still a priority as the government tries to end its seven-year insurgency that has killed thousands. Talks between government and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) representatives that began earlier this month were suspended after the killing of 23 soldiers by the militants.

The military responded with a series of air strikes that have left more than 100 insurgents dead, but Khan said the government was still open to talks – with the right people. "We will talk to those groups who are not against Pakistan," he told journalists in Peshawar. "We are in contact with groups that have never attacked Pakistan's interests, we have dialogue for them." He gave no details of which groups he meant. His comments could revive fears that Pakistan is maintaining a policy of distinguishing between "good" militants who can be used to further strategic goals abroad, and "bad" militants who attack domestic targets.

On Wednesday Nisar unveiled Pakistan's first-ever counter-terrorism policy, seven years since the TTP rose up and began its bloody campaign against the state. The minister said every act of violence would in future be met with an attack on the militants' bases, which lie mainly in the North Waziristan tribal district on the Afghan border. Commenting on the status of the dialogue between the government and Taliban representatives, Nisar said Wednesday that while talks have been put on hold they could "resume anytime soon and both negotiations and targeted strikes will go hand in hand".

The interior minister claimed no military operation was underway in North Waziristan Agency and only targeted strikes are being conducted in response to violent acts. He was addressing a press conference at the Governor's House after a detailed meeting with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Engr Shaukatullah Khan and Chief Minister Pervez Khattak about the overall law and order, and security situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA. The interior minister made it clear that no military operation was underway in North Waziristan Agency.

Nisar said great care is being taken to avoid collateral damage. "If peace dialogue is successful, then well and good, otherwise, the government will use other options to establish durable peace." "Those who believe in Pakistan and accept government's writ are our friend and those do not believe in Pakistan and government's writ are our enemy," the minister declared.

He said the government cannot tolerate violence on streets and alleys, and any hurdle in the way of peace would be completely eliminated. "There will no politics on national issues including peace and all available resources would be utilised to achieve this objective for which our people, politicians, security forces and media persons had sacrificed their lives." The interior minister said that the issue of terrorism will be resolved with political consensus, no matter what option is exercised.

He regretted that despite a serious situation, the previous governments did not bother to formulate a focused national security policy. Nisar said that in record five-month time the present elected government has announced a comprehensive national policy for internal security to counter terrorism in the country. "This policy was formulated following consultations with all stakeholders and keeping in view the international models," he added.

"This policy is not a final word and genuine inputs of parliamentarians and others segments of society would be welcomed and incorporated in the policy." The minister said that national security was a matter of existence and future of the country and for this reason the government has made untiring efforts to formulate a comprehensive policy.

End.

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