ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif has denied issuing any statement for carrying out the operation in the month of March, adding that he only said that if the ceasefire violations were done and dialogues were failed then there would be no option except operation with the government. He said it was the desire and effort that the peace should be restored in the country through dialogue process. He said government does not want bloodshed in the country.
In an interview with a private TV channel Khawaja Asif said a final decision has not been taken to include the army in the dialogue process with the Taliban. He said that whole machinery of the government is present for assistance of dialogue committee, adding that the army has vital role in the matter.
He said the entire government machinery including the army is available for talks. “It is the Prime Minister’s discretion to include anyone in the new committee.”
The defence minister added that the government was sincere in the dialogue process and he prayed for its success. He said that the government was sincere in holding dialogues, adding that the implementation on the ceasefire announcement would depend on the sincerity of the both parties. He said so far many ceasefire violations have been done, adding that every day some terrorist incident occurs in country. He said that the establishment of peace in country through dialogues is the priority of the government. He said that the opposite group should have to point out the people behind the terrorist incidents and should also have to condemn these attacks.
Khawaja Asif said that the negotiation committees should be given adequate time for the success of the dialogues, adding that the goal of government is to establish peace in country through dialogue process, adding that dialogues are the best option for the restoration of peace in country. He said if terrorist attacks are continued then the government would be placed on the wall and what option would remain with the government. He said that the government could not tolerate killing of innocent people for long time.
The defence minister made it clear that the duration of the dialogue process cannot be long and if there is no development the second option will have to be used. “If the ceasefire is violated the government will be left with no other option but to launch an operation.”
Meanwhile in an interview with a foreign news agency Khawaja Asif said that government cannot believe the Taliban’s argument that splinter groups had launched the recent attack in Islamabad adding that Pakistan could launch a full-scale military operation against Pakistani Taliban insurgents in the tribal areas near the Afghan border as early as this month in case the ceasefire was violated.
He said the government would not hesitate to bomb militant hideouts or send forces into the tribal areas if the Taliban did not abide by the ceasefire announced last week.
“If there is a ceasefire, it has to be complete. Without that, we just can’t afford to have talks with the Taliban.”
“We won’t just take this lying down,” the defense minister said. “If we are attacked, the state is attacked, civilians are attacked, military personal are attacked, we will retaliate. We will retaliate in kind.”
Asif said there were now very few takers for the argument that the Taliban are truly committed to dialogue.
“The Taliban have not even condemned this so-called splinter group four days after the attack. They are saying, ‘We have not violated a ceasefire, these are peripheral groups, they are not under our control,’” Asif said. “But we cannot believe this.”
When asked about reports that talks may be re-launched, this time with the military in the driving seat, he said: “The army’s input is very valuable. They are the people on the frontlines. They have to execute our decisions.”