National effort to rout terrorism

Prime Minister Gilani will convene a national conference this week in order to evolve a common strategy to rout religious extremism and terrorism. The leadership of all major political parties would be invited to attend the conference. Prime Minister Gilani took this initiative after a proposal was put forth by PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif. The prime minister will hold a meeting of provincial chief ministers and home ministers today ahead of the national conference on terrorism. While the prime minister and Mian Nawaz Sharif have come up with a good strategy in building a political consensus across the board on how to deal with the terrorist threat, we advise the politicians to stop their war of words. At a time when the people of Pakistan should present a united front against the terrorists, we see a blame game going on amongst our politicians. It is highly unfortunate that the politicians are busy in political point scoring when the nation needs a national consensus on routing terrorism.

Mian Nawaz Sharif held a press conference on Saturday and accused the federal interior ministry and intelligence agencies of not cooperating and sharing information with the Punjab government. The interior ministry claims that it had sent an intelligence report on impending attacks on either a mosque or an imam bargah a couple of days before the attack on Data Darbar. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that he will offer his resignation if Mr Sharif’s allegations were proved. Instead of publicly hurling allegations left, right and centre at each other in this manner, Mr Malik and Mr Sharif should act in a mature way and resolve this issue in a meeting. It was because of these accusations against the federal government by the PML-N that Prime Minister Gilani had to call Mr Sharif and try to defuse the tension. Is this the time for the Punjab government and the federal government to lock horns? Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has accused Mr Malik of creating rifts between provinces when the interior minister talked about the ‘Punjabi Taliban’. Mian Nawaz Sharif also said that he was not aware of any evidence regarding the presence of terrorists in southern Punjab. Not only is the whole country under threat from the terrorists, Lahore, the heartland of Punjab, has been at the receiving end lately. Thus, in these circumstances, the Punjab government’s denial of terrorists’ presence in southern Punjab boggles the mind. There is enough evidence against the terrorist networks and some hate-spewing seminaries operating in southern Punjab. The Punjab government needs to wake up to this grim reality instead of labouring under false illusions. The terrorists are very much present in Punjab and should be dealt with in a stringent manner.

Meanwhile, the public’s tempers are high and people are protesting every single day all over the country. People have expressed their anger when politicians visited the shrine and at the media as well. The anger is understandable but the people must strive to remain calm. Many ulema have demanded the resignation of Shahbaz Sharif and other Punjab government officials. Yet according to Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi, some of the ulema are reluctant to condemn suicide attacks. All religious scholars owe it to the public to pass edicts against terrorist activities. On another note, both Imran Khan and Mian Nawaz Sharif have supported negotiating with the Taliban, which is absurd. We have had enough of Taliban apologists. Now is the time to fight them, not soft-pedal.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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