Sanaullah assures nation steps being taken to counter terrorism

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ISLAMABAD, JAN 4: Amid an uptick in terrorist activity in the country, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Wednesday assured the nation that the government was taking steps to counter terrorism.

Pakistan has seen a rise in terrorist attacks across the country, believed to have been planned and directed by the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leaders based in Afghanistan.

The TTP, which has ideological linkages with the Afghan Taliban, executed around more than 100 attacks last year, most of which happened after August when the group’s peace talks with the Pakistan government began to falter. The ceasefire was formally ended on Nov 28 by the TTP.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad today, Sanaullah said the state’s efforts against terrorism could not be publicised as it would compromise its success.

“But this should not be taken to mean that nothing is being done,” the minister said, adding that tremendous efforts against terrorism were underway and the nation should rest assured about the matter.

Commenting on the recent meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC), he said that the forum had resolved to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy against terrorism with “no mixed messages and no differentiation between good or bad terrorists”.

“Whoever is involved in terrorism is a terrorist,” he asserted.

Sanaullah further said that authorities would take pre-emptive action against terrorist schemes and those involved would be apprehended in order to prevent such incidents from occurring in the first place.

He said that the NSC had also decided that the provincial counterterrorism departments (CTDs) would be provided training by the federal government in order to make them more effective.

The minister said that the forum had also discussed setting up of a national body for coordinating with the various CTDs in an effort to make them more efficient.

‘Efforts underway to bring TTP to table’

At the same time, Sanaullah said that efforts were underway to bring the outlawed TTP to the negotiation table but the group would first have to set aside arms and surrender before the law and the Constitution.

He said Pakistan needed to deal with the situation in such a manner as to keep the TTP at the “lowest level” and keep the number of terrorist incidents to a minimum.

“You will see the decisions that were made in regards to this being implemented in the coming days.”

His remarks come after the NSC on Monday reiterated its intent to crush terrorist groups operating inside the country with full force.

Afghan Taliban’s remarks and TTP’s threat

During the press conference, the minister was also asked about the recent remarks from the Afghan Taliban and the explicit threat issued by the TTP to the PPP and the PML-N for “openly declaring war against the TTP to appease America”.

The TTP statement pointedly mentioned PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif by name, as well as their respective parties, and warned religious parties against “activities against us”.

“I never said that we want to attack Afghanistan or someone there,” Sanaullah said. However, as stated before, if any terrorist is planning to attack Pakistan or stage a terrorist attack then, as part of international law, “we can and should engage”.

Sanaullah said the NSC meeting had concretely decided that talks about any concerns or issues would only be held with the Afghan government.

Regarding the threat issued by the TTP, he said that a “general threat” was present and the government was already taking the necessary precautions.