Wednesday July 24, 2024

Govt to address PTI's concerns over Azm-e-Istehkam: Khawaja Asif

"Whatever their questions or concerns, it will be responded to in a satisfying manner," says defence minister

By Web Desk
June 25, 2024
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif speaks during a press conference in Lahore, on June 25, 2024. — Screengrab/GeoNewsLive
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif speaks during a press conference in Lahore, on June 25, 2024. — Screengrab/GeoNewsLive

After the opposition flagged reservations against the announcement of a new anti-militancy operation, Azm-e-Istehkam, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif Tuesday assured that the federal government would provide satisfactory answers to address the concerns.

Speaking with journalist in Lahore, the minister emphasised that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) reservations would be addressed, once the the proposal to launch the operation is presented before the federal cabinet first and later before the parliament.

Asif, during the presser, said the government will create a consensus among the parties.

"The opposition parties and allies. We will give them ample time to discuss this issue. Whatever their questions or concerns, it will be responded to in a satisfying manner," he added.

The government had, last week, announced a fresh counter-terrorism operation, pledging to utilise the full strength of the country's resources, including military, diplomatic, and legislative, to turn the heat up on militants.

In response, PTI, Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam Fazl (JUI-F), Awami National Party (ANP), and others voiced concerns over the new military operation, demanding that parliament must be taken into confidence before taking any such decision and that they opposed the operation.

Following much criticism, the federal government issued a policy statement, saying that "no large-scale military operation is being launched" in the country.

"The recently announced vision for enduring stability named Azm-e-Istehkam is being erroneously misunderstood and compared with earlier launched kinetic operations like Zarb-e-Azab, Rah-e-Najaat etc," a statement from the Prime Minister's Office said.

During the presser, the minister said several operations have been conducted against terrorism in the past and a new operation will be launched now.

On the opposition's resistance to the idea, he said that four chief ministers were present in the apex committee meeting, and none of them opposed the operation.

Khawaja added that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur did not disagree. He, in fact, said “We will support this action” in hushed words.

“This operation has no political ambitions,” said the minister, emphasising that the government wants to fight the rising tide of terrorism. All must support operation Azm-e-Istehkam, he added.

He insisted that since the National Action Plan was formulated after the Army Public School (APS) incident, the situation is very different today compared to what it was like back then.

“Terrorists had occupied the areas of FATA. The areas of FATA had become no-go areas, this is not the case today,” he said, adding: “The [government’s] write is established in these areas today.”

In Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, he reiterated, operation Azm-e-Istehkam will be implemented.

Khawaja mentioned that 5,000 to 6,000 Taliban terrorists were settled here and their popular leaders were also pardoned.

“This move brought destruction. It did not bring peace but fragmented it. Terrorists were given shelter here," he maintained.

Asif said all three parties opposing the operation are taking a stand to secure their vote bank and urged them to take a stand for the country, not for the vote bank.

Speaking about past operations, the minister acknowledged that there was displacement. However, he maintained, that the operations conducted now will be intelligence-based.

“In a few days, the operation procedure will be clear. If the operation is agreed upon, then there will also be agreement on its characteristics,” he said, adding that the provinces have to contribute towards supporting the operation financially.

He also insisted that the support of all institutions will be required in the present circumstances.

Minister Asif said he went to Afghanistan to discuss the issues surrounding terrorism in Pakistan and many other people have also gone there.

“The Kabul government expressed cooperation, but no concrete progress could be made,” he said.