Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday reiterated a call for national unity against terrorism, stressing that “history will not forgive us” if the resurgent threat is not halted before it becomes entrenched.
Commencing a meeting of the Apex Committee in Peshawar, convened to discuss means to address terrorism after a suicide bombing in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa capital left at least 80 people dead, he said the participants would express sympathies with the families of the people martyred.
“This terrorism managed to breach the security checkpost and reach the mosque. We should not feel hesitant in admitting the facts,” he said, reiterating that this had raised questions over how terrorism had managed to return to Pakistan after being eradicated a few years ago. “In the wake of this incident, undue criticism was seen on social media,” he said. “This is certainly condemnable. The occurrence of the incident due to security lapses will be probed. But saying this was a drone attack and similar related accusations were uncalled for in this tragic time,” he said, rejecting rumors that have been swirling on social media.
Noting that the public wanted to know what measures would be taken to prevent this wave of terror, he said consensus was the answer, as all provinces needed to work together with the center, while the leaders of all political parties must shun their differences and unite. Stressing that such moments “make or break a nation,” he reiterated that the country would “collectively” overcome this challenge. “All resources will be mobilized,” he said. “This meeting reaffirms our aim to sit together until this menace is eradicated,” he added.
Referring to military operations Zarbe Azb and Raddul Fasaad, he said they had broken the “back of terrorism” despite many sacrifices. “Our friends and foes give testimony to this,” he said. “Eradicating terrorism, which had spread across four provinces, was not easy. Many people lost their lives confronting terror. Our police and armed forces gave huge sacrifices. Our citizens were on the frontline,” he said, stressing that history would always remember martyrs and their sacrifices.
However, he cautioned, “criticism for the sake of criticism” should be avoided. Noting that the federal government had been criticized by the former KP government for not doing enough ahead of terrorist acts in Bannu, Nowshera and Peshawar, he reiterated that Rs. 417 billion had been given under the National Finance Commission Award since 2010 for anti-terror efforts. “Where did this money go?” he asked.
“We formed the Counter-Terrorism Department in Punjab for Rs. 2.5 billion and similar forces should have been formed here. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had Rs. 417 billion, which they should have used to build safe city centers and satellite forensic labs. Nobody would have questioned them,” he said, adding that despite significant economic challenges, the center was with the province. “The terms we have to meet with the IMF are beyond imagination. Despite these problems, the center is with you. We will strengthen CTD to the best of our abilities; we are here to serve you,” he added.
“We now have to move,” he said. “Terrorists have no religion, they attack humanity. And there could be nothing worse than this,” he added, while reiterating a call for national unity so society could become “one wall against terrorism.”
Without directly naming the PTI, the prime minister also slammed the party’s preferred policies for allowing militants to return to Pakistan from Afghanistan. “Those who spread cruelty inside Pakistan; you are taking steps to settle them [here], but to improve the country’s fate, you are not ready to shake hands with your own people. But these double standards will not work,” he said.
Positively, said Sharif, reports indicated terrorists had not yet occupied any area of Pakistan. “They do not have an inch in their control. They roam about here and there. But there is no place in their possession. If this is the instance, this is welcoming. But who brought them here? This is the question that the nation is looking for the answer to,” he added.