'No fresh military operation as no political consensus'



Islamabad: Acknowledging that Pakistan could not launch any fresh operation against militants as there is no national consensus on the issue, President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday called for greater unity to confront militancy and blamed the opposition of pandering to "rightist vote".

Zardari asserted the country would have to fight the war against militancy but warned that people would have to be ready for the "blow back". Noting that operations had been conducted in the past in places like the Swat Valley with "complete consensus", he indicated there was currently no agreement with the opposition on a fresh offensive.

"It is useless to ask the opposition today for consensus because you know and I know that they are banking on the rightist vote," he said, referring to the upcoming general election scheduled for next year.

"Everywhere else, we had the consensus, today we do not," he added. "So one has to look at one's own possibilities and the type of capability one has. And then to be able to take the blow back. Are you ready to take the blow back," Zardari asked while addressing the concluding session of a national conference of the South Asian Free Media Association.

"We will have to fight this war, whether today or tomorrow. But we will fight with conviction, honour, time (and) consensus," he said.

Following the Taliban's attempt to assassinate 14-year-old rights activist Malala Yousufzai, there was considerable speculation that the civilian government and the military could capitalise on public anger over the incident to launch a fresh campaign against militants in North Waziristan.

However, Zardari's remarks made it clear that the government was not planning any fresh push against the Taliban or any other militant groups. The President further said that the Leader of Opposition's speeches in parliament made it clear that the country was "divided" on the issue of a fresh operation.

Calling for greater unity to confront militancy head on, he said: "There is need to have consensus following the policy of reconciliation to achieve the desired results in the war against terror and ensure peace and security".

Zardari pointed towards polarization in the society and emphasised the need for greater unity in the wake of threats by militants to peace, including attacks on children.

He said all segments of society should sit together and help evolve consensus to defeat the mindset that attacks innocent girls like Malala Yousufzai.

"The attack on Malala Yousufzai was an attack on our values and on the future of our new generation," he said. The attack on Malala was not an ordinary terrorist act and she was targeted because "she raised the flag of peace and education for children", he said. Expressing his deepest anguish at the cowardly attack on Malala and her two schoolmates, Zardari said "these girls, like many others, represent a defiance of all threats".

"They represent a challenge to the terrorist assault on our values and Malala was targeted because of her defiance of the extremist mindset," he said. The terrorists seek to impose their agenda by force, which cannot be allowed under any circumstances, he added.

The fight against extremism was going to be a long one but it was wrong to link the attack on Malala to the reaction against the war in Afghanistan or US drone attacks, Zardari said.

"Those doing so are in fact justifying terrorism," he added. The Pakistan government has taken a firm stand against terrorism in any form and also consistently opposed drone attacks, which are a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and are counterproductive, he said.

"We will also not permit the militants to use our territory to launch attack outside our borders," he said.

Referring to the upcoming polls, Zardari said Pakistan is "close to witnessing a historic transition from democracy to democracy" and reiterated his commitment to hold free and fair elections.

PTI