New govt has blueprint to tackle suicide bombings

New govt has blueprint to tackle suicide bombings
By Qudssia Akhlaque, The News, March 13, 2008

ISLAMABAD: Feeling the heat of the growing internal security crisis because of the increasing number of suicide bombings and US drone and missile attacks, leaders of the political parties set to form the government in Islamabad are preparing to deal with this enormous challenge on war-footing.

While the political parties may not have gone public with their specific plan of action to stem the rising tide of terrorism, it has transpired through a series of background interviews that there is consensus among them that containing the menace of suicide bombings remains the biggest challenge for Pakistan at this juncture.

The Pakistan People’s Party as well as its key coalition partners PML-N and ANP all view this as a major threat to the internal security and are all set to accord top priority to this complex issue when they form the government next week.

“Yes, assured security for the citizens is the issue number one for all of us,” PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar observed while talking to The News. He was quick to point out that a tribal delegation that met party Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari last week also underscored that their quest and yearning for security was far keener than their need for “roti aur makaan” (food and shelter).

When asked why the March 9 Bhurban Declaration issued after meeting of PPP and PML-N party heads failed to reflect this concern, his response was: “Because it was not a contentious issue and it was understood that it is the number one issue for all of us.” He further explained that the declaration basically focused on the key political issues on which there had earlier been “difference of nuances” in positions of the two parties and hence it was deemed necessary to clarify them. However, he agreed that in the wake of a bloody wave of suicide bombings and overwhelming anxiety about security across the country it was important to also highlight the issue in the public domain to send a strong message that the PPP-led government would accord top-most priority to address this problem.

PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif told this correspondent that the crisis of internal security in the wake of increasing number of suicide bombings would be a priority issue for the new government.

“The PML-N and PPP will introduce the matter in the first sitting of the new parliament and get input from all parliamentarians on how the nation views the challenge and ways of responding to it,” he disclosed. In this context, he said the PML-N’s Central Executive Committee is currently in the process of identifying the steps that need to be taken immediately.

Underlining that his party’s view was that the first step ought to be a shared national perception of the problem, he declared: “The PML-N believes that only a home-grown policy can be successful in effectively tackling the problem of terrorism.”

Furthermore, the PML-N president noted that improved security measures, sustained dialogue, increased intelligence and an efficient administrative structure were required to halt and effectively cope with the worsening internal security situation.

While the terrorism issue has not been a formal agenda item at PPP’s post-election parleys with its coalition partners, it has figured prominently during the talks as all the parties are acutely conscious of it. Apparently, ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan had most emphatically underlined the need to urgently tackle this grave issue.

After the internal meetings with all its divisions, the PPPP arrived at the decision that in the first 100 days of its government the issues of security and inflation would be accorded top priority. To tackle the issue, the party has prepared a comprehensive blueprint, which it believes can be implemented and would help ensure internal security.

“We think we have a solution to the problem. We have a blueprint that can be acted upon and it is doable,” PPPP’s articulate spokesperson Farhatullah Babar told this correspondent when his attention was drawn to the spate of pre- and post-election suicide bombings and asked what specific steps his party would take in the immediate term to tackle this issue. At this point, Babar opted to stay clear of specifics of the blueprint, broad contours of which have been discussed with the main coalition partners.

His hunch was that the PML-N and other coalition partners would back the PPPP plan but may have some other suggestions that could be incorporated. He said the PPPP has had only general discussions on the blueprint with the PML-N, and formal details would be shared with it subsequently.

There are hints that motions or resolutions may be tabled in parliament to remove all bottlenecks there. A more specific plan includes live telecast of proceedings of the Defence and Interior committees of the National Assembly and the Senate which have been disallowed in the past.

“We will discuss the issue of terrorism in parliament and the parliamentary committees, which will also be open to the public through live telecast, and in those meetings the PPP will lay down all the dimensions of the problems and plans to tackle it,” the PPP spokesperson disclosed.

In this context, it is learnt that Benazir Bhutto had “several thoughts” which also pertained to the issue of the dual control over the intelligence apparatus. While it is not clear yet what shape the anti-terror policy of the new government will take, indications are that the strategy and approach pursued will be a departure from the existing one. That it will be more inclusive and non-violent. More importantly, the commitment to deal with the issue will further strengthen.

Since the start of this year in Pakistan, there have been 16 deadly suicide attacks out of which four were in the first 11 days of the current month. Reportedly, in 2007 more than 1,100 people, including former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, were killed in a series of suicide attacks and roadside bombings.

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