Targeted airstrikes against militants effects, dialogue not so much

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Feb 28, 2014.

Islamabad – The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have not responded positively to the government’s peace talks initiative but recent targeted airstrikes against militants in North Waziristan have been “effective”, according to Sartaj Aziz, the Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs.

Over 100 militants, including foreign fighters, have been killed in several rounds of airstrikes targeting militant hideouts in the tribal areas since February 19. The military airstrikes, largely being viewed as retaliatory, began after the TTP claimed responsibility on February 17 for killing 23 Frontier Corps personnel it had kidnapped back in 2010.

“The North Waziristan airstrikes have been quite effective,” Aziz, who is Pakistan’s de facto foreign minister, said on Thursday. “The reports we are getting suggest that action against militants has been successful.”

Ironic as it may sound, Aziz was speaking to the media after the opening ceremony of an international conference on the history of non-violent resistance movements in Pakistan.

The government’s own attempts to find a non-violent solution to militancy were not reciprocated by the TTP, according to Aziz.

“We did not get a positive response from the TTP’s side in the dialogue,” the adviser said.

During the past week, the TTP had announced they will agree to a ceasefire if their members are not killed by security forces. But the government committee negotiating with the Taliban had suspended talks demanding an unconditional ceasefire for the talks to resume.

Meanwhile, previous media reports suggest the government has given a “go-ahead” for preemptive strikes against militants and the possibility of an on-ground military operation in Waziristan is being discussed.

Aziz said the details of a security policy shared by interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in the parliament on Wednesday did not cover the whole gamut of the national security policy.

“Let me clarify that the policy points discussed in the parliament were about the internal security policy,” he said. “They are one part of the National Security Policy, which is much larger and wider.”

The comprehensive National Security Policy is still evolving and in its comprehensive form, it will include the foreign policy and defense policy, Aziz said. He said the country’s defense policy will be announced soon.

The adviser reiterated his earlier statement on Syria, terming reports about a foreign policy shift from Pakistan on Syria as baseless.

He said it was incorrect to suggest that Pakistan wanted a change in government in Syria. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had only agreed to find a solution for the Syrian crisis in accordance with the Geneva-I Resolution, Aziz said.

The two countries had issued a joint statement, which included policy statements on Syria, at the end of a recent visit by Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz to Pakistan.

The 2012 United Nations Geneva I conference on Syria tried to bring Bashar Al-Assad’s regime and the Syrian opposition together to discuss ways to bring about a transitional government for Syria. It was this transitional government body to which Pakistan and Saudi officials had referred in their joint statement, Aziz said.

The adviser also repeated Pakistan’s desire for an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led solution for post-NATO Afghanistan. He said Pakistan had nothing to do with the Bilateral Security Agreement between Afghanistan and the US.

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