Pak lawmakers have no stomach for battling militants: NYT

October 21st, 2008 - 6:42 pm ICT by ANI  

Nawaz Sharif

Islamabad, Oct.21 (ANI): Lawmakers in Pakistan, it seems, don”t have the stomach for battling militants.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is reported to have sent a letter on Monday to Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, calling for dialogue with militants.
The letter suggested a halt in military operations while negotiations were given a chance, according to Ahsan Iqbal, an aide to Sharif.
Sharif, according to the New York Times, believes that there is no harm in talking with the militants, though he has sought to differentiate between them and the Taliban,and Al Qaeda.
The Pakistan political class, according to the paper, still sees Qaeda members as outsiders to Pakistan and the Taliban as being mostly Pashtuns living in Pakistans tribal areas.
So far, the speeches in Parliament have expressed opposition to fighting the militants.
A religious party, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, part of the coalition with the Pakistan Peoples Party, voiced particularly strong opposition to the war against the militants.
The idea of a parliamentary debate has been encouraged by Pakistan Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, as a way to garner political support for the military efforts, according to two Pakistanis familiar with his thinking.
The Pakistani military began a campaign against the Taliban and its Qaeda backers in the tribal area of Bajaur two months ago, an effort that American commanders have applauded as a way to stop the militants from crossing into Afghanistan and attacking American forces.
General Kayani is seeking to project that the army is responding to the civilian government.
In that vein, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the director general of military operations for the Pakistani Army, who has been selected to lead the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, briefed a joint session of Parliament two weeks ago.
Over four hours, General Pasha described what the army had done in campaigns against militants over seven years, showed images of militants slaughtering civilians, and said more than 1,500 Pakistani soldiers had died in the operations, according to Parliament members.
But the briefing was poorly received by politicians, who said it revealed little that was new. Lawmakers also criticized General Pasha for not offering a strategy for the future.
Attendance was also poor. In their speeches, the politicians stressed the need for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban.(ANI)

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