Gilani accepts Nawaz proposal: Conference to debate strategy against terror
By Amjad Mahmood
LAHORE: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has accepted a suggestion by PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif to convene a ‘national conference’ in order to hammer out a strategy against terrorism.
Mr Sharif came out with the suggestion at a press conference on Saturday and Mr Gilani conveyed his acceptance just hours later through a phone call. The conference is likely to take place next week.
The two leaders showed good sense and avoided adding fuel to the blame game set in motion earlier by the federal law minister by calling for resignation of the Punjab government in the wake of the Data Darbar suicide blasts and the chief minister’s allegation that federal agencies were not sharing information on terrorist networks.
“Being a coalition partner in Punjab how can I demand resignation from my own government,” was Mr Gilani’s response to a question by a journalist at Ganga Ram Hospital, where he visited those who were injured in Thursday’s strikes.
Although the PML-N chief reiterated Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s allegation that federal agencies under the control of the interior ministry were not cooperating with the provincial government, he avoided indulging in a blame game in public, suggesting the PPP-led government convene a ‘national conference’.
The former prime minister also stressed finding ways and means for changing the strategy on war against terror by bringing Taliban to the negotiating table.
Terrorism was a serious national problem and no political party could alone tackle it, the prime minister told the media, adding the federation and provinces would jointly fight out the menace.
About sharing of information regarding terrorists with federating units, the prime minister said it would be done whenever credible information was made available. He said he had convened a meeting of secret agencies on Monday to thrash out measures to counter the terror menace.
In reply to a query about the use of the term, ‘Punjabi Taliban’ by the interior minister, Mr Gilani said Rehman Malik had clarified that he had not done so.
A question was put to the prime minister about an allegation by the Sunni Ittehad Council that southern Punjab was turning into a hub of terrorists. Mr Gilani made it clear that a decision regarding an army operation in any area would be taken collectively and based on “reliable information”, and not on hearsay.
Asked if army operation would be launched in North Waziristan, he said action would be taken wherever writ of the government was challenged.
In his press conference, Nawaz Sharif suggested that the government activate the parliamentary committee on national security for framing a joint anti-war strategy as terms of reference of the committee had already been finalised.
The committee, he asserted, could have given the government proposals and initiatives like the one being adopted by Washington and London.
Expressing his support to the clamour for a dialogue with the Taliban, he said there was no harm in negotiating with those militants who were ready to discuss peace. But at the same time, he added, concerns of countries having stakes in Afghanistan need to be addressed.
“We have this problem in our home. Why shouldn’t we take initiatives?” he said.
“Terrorism is acceptable at no cost, but we also need peace.”
Mr Sharif, ridiculing insinuations that his party had contacts with terrorists, wondered why then were Punjab, especially Lahore, going through bloodbath after bloodbath.
In reply to a question, he said although it was true that law and order was the responsibility of provinces, but the menace of terrorism was the outcome of policies set by the federation.
The former premier said it was regrettable that the PPP-led government had done nothing to reverse policies framed by former president Pervez Musharraf.
Referring to a statement of Babar Awan holding the Punjab government responsible for the Data Darbar tragedy, Nawaz Sharif said the law minister’s outburst suggested he had been waiting for an ‘attack like this’ to vilify the provincial government.