National consensus against terrorism is need of the hour: Khawaja Asif

"We sowed the seeds of terrorism ourselves," defence minister says

By Web Desk
January 31, 2023

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif speaks on the floor of the National Assembly on January 31, 2023. — YouTube/PTVNewsLive


Defence Minister Khawaja Asif asserted there was a dire need for national consensus against terrorism across the country — similar how it was during operation Zarb-e-Azb in 2014 — after a Peshawar mosque suicide bomb attack left at least 100 lives and injured over 220 people.

The defence minister, speaking during a National Assembly session, said the tragedy of the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar — which occurred in December 2014 — was still fresh in people's minds and yet another gruelling incident of terrorism happened in the country.

“A successful war was fought against terrorism from 2010 to 2017,” the federal minister said, adding that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led government, which was ruled from 2013-2018, "eliminated" the menace of terrorism.

“Several APS-like incidents occurred in KP [Khyber Pakhtunkhwa],” Asif said, adding that the terrorism engulfed numerous precious lives.

Referring banned terror organisations, the defence minister said that the house was told around two years ago that “these people” could be negotiated but any conclusive decision could not be made on the matter.

He came down hard on Imran Khan-led government for its instance of dialogue with the proscribed outfits.

“Following the Afghan war, thousands of the people were settled in Pakistan,” he added.

Stressing the need for national unity, the minister said that "we sowed the seeds of terrorism ourselves".

Peshawar attack is 'against Pakistan'

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, while briefing the lower house of parliament regarding the Peshawar attack, said that the rescue operation had been completed and all the debris from the site had been lifted.

He added that the Khorasani group of Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) claimed responsibility for the brutal suicide attack.

He further said that 27 of the injured are critical, which means the death toll is expected to rise beyond the current 100.

Condemning the attack, he said, “This attack is against Pakistan and its 22 crore people.”

'No division between Lahore and Peshawar'

Reacting to the comments of dissident PTI lawmaker Noor Alam Khan — who accused the forces of prejudice against the Pakhtoons — the security czar said that he understood and “surrendered” to the feelings of his fellow parliamentarian but “rejected” the accusations of prejudice levelled by him.

“There is no discrimination between Lahore and Peshawar,” he said, adding, “All of Pakistan has been victimised and every Pakistani is in mourning over the [Peshawar mosque] attack.”

Acknowledging that there had been an uptick in the number of attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), he said: “The KP police, army, FC and law enforcement agencies have been sacrificing their lives every day. Recently a police station in Bannu was made hostage."

However, he added, the perpetrators of "these attacks are the enemies of Pakistan".

In the past, Sanaullah said, there had been incidents of terrorism in Lahore which had claimed hundreds of lives.

“Our investigations have found that in 99% of the incidents, suicide bombers hailed from areas outside of Punjab, he said. “First, these attackers are brainwashed and then sent all over the country to incite terror.”

Must triumph over terrorism

Reflecting that Pakistan should never have helped train the Mujahideen in the past, the interior minister said: “We prepared them and now they have become terrorists.”

He also apprised parliament that the prime minister, army chief and ISI DG would come to the house to brief parliamentarians and seek their assistance. “We must triumph in the war against terrorism.”

The state of terror incidents in the country paralleled the situation that existed a decade ago, he added. “Our policy must also be the same as the one we adopted 9 years ago after the APS attack.”

Need for national consensus

Referring to the attack on a police station in Bannu in December last year, the interior minister said: “Security personnel sacrificed their lives during the operation, however, the demands of the terrorists were not accepted and they were ultimately killed.”

While terming it a “collective national” mistake, he said that “there is no need for us to join the fight at anyone's behest”.

The interior minister went on to say, “Our jawans take action against terrorists every day, and are sacrificing their lives daily. The nation stands with our forces against terrorism.”

Blame game?

Insisting that the previous PTI government had failed to play its part in tackling the issue of terrorism, Sanaullah said that “if I want, I can accuse the previous government of neglecting this matter and back it with evidence”.

He alleged that the ousted government had allowed people who had been sentenced to death to walk free.

“It is necessary that the prime minister and the military leadership take the house into confidence,” he said, adding, “If that is not done, and the government formulates a policy without taking parliament into confidence, it may make mistakes like the previous government.”