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Pakistan 'on war footing to smash Taliban': Rana Sanaullah

29 January, 2014

LONDON: Pakistan is being put on a "war footing" to counter a surge in terrorism, according to Rana Sanaullah, the law minister in Punjab. He has promised military strikes against the Taliban and brushed aside human rights fears about draconian new anti-terror laws.

Sanaullah, one of the prime minister's confidants, told UK newspaper The Guardian in Lahore that the time had finally come to "smash" militant safe havens.To protect Punjab, "operations" will be mounted in 174 areas of the province where communities of Pashtuns, from the country's more volatile north-west, have settled, Sanaullah said. "We feel apprehension that they will retaliate in Punjab."

Sanaullah said a decision had been made to launch military operations but the army would be left to decide exactly what form any operation would take.Sanaullah said: "This should have been done 10 years ago. Even if it is 5% misused, we must support it anyway because without it, there is no chance that you can fight terrorists."

"I think what is done will be no worse than what has happened at the Guantanamo Bay," Sanaullah said when asked about the risk of terror suspects being tortured."We believe that drone attacks damage the terrorists, very much," he said, admitting much of the outrage over drones was contrived. "Inside, everyone believes that drone attacks are good; but outside, everyone condemns them because the drones are American."

Sanaullah heaped scorn on such misgivings, saying rights groups were "serving the cause of the Taliban". "This has to be enforced on war footings," he said. "The NGOs and human rights forces will come in, and they can delay these things."

Sanaullah said the government's new stance on militancy had to wait for the retirement of three critical figures late last year: that of the former president Asif Ali Zardari, the former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and the former army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

"If Chief Justice Chaudhry had been in office now, he would have struck down the PPO the next day," Sanaullah said. He also claimed Kayani, who served as head of Pakistan's powerful army for six years, had been unwilling to tackle the TTP, despite persistent claims by military sources that the former army chief was frustrated by the lack of action.

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