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Military, political leaders agree to reconsider anti-terrorism policy

ISLAMABAD: During an in-camera briefing to members of the National Assembly on Friday, Chief of Army Staff Gen Syed Asim Munir acknowledged that a strategy to engage with terrorists had allowed them to regroup in tribal areas before the country’s political and military leadership agreed to revisit the anti-terrorism strategy.

Following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, Gen Munir appears to be referring to the policy devised and implemented by the military and political leadership of PTI regime.

To date, former Prime Minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan has defended his policy and continues to support the idea of resettling Afghan insurgents.

After lawmakers expressed severe worries about the rebirth of terrorist groups, a three-pronged approach to dissuade, conversation, and development to root out terrorism was already underway, in a marked reversal from the previous regime’s policy.

The agreement came after the military leadership addressed recent terrorist attacks around the country and presented facts about security forces’ efforts to eliminate terrorism, preserve internal security, and defend Pakistan from external threats.

The two-hour in-camera briefing covered current security challenges in Pakistan as well as the army’s anti-terror operations in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Gilgit-Baltistan, and other provinces.

During the briefing, Gen Munir also informed legislators on the proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)’s plans and the security forces’ efforts to oppose them.

Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum, the director general of Inter-Services Intelligence, briefed parliamentarians on the collusion of enemy intelligence services with terrorist organizations.

A one-and-a-half-hour Q&A session followed the briefing.

According to sources, the army chief emphasized the importance of revising the anti-terrorism action plan and advised a multi-dimensional or ‘3-D’ strategy.

Following the attack on the Army Public School on December 16, 2014, a national consensus emerged, resulting in a 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) for combatting terrorism and extremism, which was approved by parliament. NAP outlined the specifics of the country’s counterterrorism campaign.

According to a congressman, the army chief dispelled the image of mounting a full-scale anti-terror campaign in tribal areas, instead proposing a ‘deter, discussion, and development’ strategy to neutralize the terrorists.

The ‘3-D’ strategy, according to the army chief, is not a revolutionary concept because it is congruent with state policy. He proposed that all stakeholders, including security forces, the legal community, civil society, legislators, social workers, bureaucracy, diplomats, and the media, be included in this plan.

Gen Munir said that security forces had cleansed all ‘no-go regions’ in Pakistan and that 80,000 men had sacrificed sacrifices for this purpose.

He went on to say that the terrorists had no choice but to recognize the writ of the state.

Gen Munir also asked lawmakers to put their differences aside. According to a lawmaker, the army advised politicians to work together for “our Pakistan” rather than “new or old Pakistan.”

Difficult questions

During the Q&A, leading politicians and political party leaders praised the work of the armed services, but the army chief also faced some tough questions, particularly from parliamentarians from tribal districts.

They questioned the TTP’s revival and the previous government’s strategy of engaging them in conversation.

A handful of MNAs also requested action against those who assisted terrorist groups, to which the military leadership responded that such elements would be treated with zero tolerance, according to the lawmaker.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, according to Pakistani reports, hailed the security forces for their sacrifices.

According to sources, PM Shehbaz stated that the previous government squandered anti-terror efforts, and as a result, terrorism returned to the country.

On Thursday, Ali Wazir of South Waziristan said in the National Assembly that they would not allow any operation in the territory unless the “trial and conviction of those serving and retired army generals” who assisted these terrorists in resettling in these areas were carried out.

Mr. Wazir, who spent most of his time in prison for anti-establishment speeches and actions, recalled raising the issue with Shehbaz Sharif when he was brought from Karachi to attend meetings of the then opposition parties during the no-confidence vote against former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The MNA asserted that not only the people and the parliament but also the GHQ, were not confident in the deals signed with Afghan terrorists for their relocation to Pakistan.

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