Operation in Malakand, Waziristan is no solution

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani conceded during a debate in the National Assembly on Saturday that the military operation in Malakand or South Waziristan was no lasting solution and the government was taking measures to bring stability to the region.

However, the prime minister refrained from responding to a lawmaker’s criticism of Interior Minister Rehman Malik, whom legislators blamed for the nation’s deepening sense of insecurity.

Mr Gilani highlighted several steps his government had taken to normalise the situation in Malakand, saying that parliamentary leaders of all parties had been taken into confidence before launching the military operation in South Waziristan. ‘The nation is also united on combating terrorism to the finish.’ The prime minister said the government had taken good care of Malakand IDPs and was also providing assistance to the people who fled South Waziristan.

A sum of Rs8.5 billion had been set aside for Waziristan IDPs and every displaced family was being given Rs5,000. An amount of Rs 25,000 would be provided to each family on return home, he added.

The prime minister said the government had earmarked Rs50 billion in the current budget for rehabilitation of the Malakand IDPs and released Rs6 billion of the proposed Rs25 billion package for upgradation of security in the region.

Since Monday will be observed as a holiday on account of Allama Iqbal Day, the lower house was summoned on Saturday, a weekly dayoff.

The house wore a deserted look until the prime minister entered the house. Earlier, lawmakers delivered their speeches in the absence of ministers and officials of interior and foreign affairs ministries. No more than 25 lawmakers were present and the dismal attendance continued till the end of the proceedings.

Presiding officer Riaz Pirzada reminded the government twice during the debate about the absence of interior and foreign ministry officials who should have been there to take notes of important speeches.

Zafar Bhittani, a lawmaker from the tribal areas, urged the prime minister to pick any one of the 342 legislators in the assembly for the job of interior minister instead of ‘banking on a person who preferred to fly to Abu Dhabi for talks with the MQM’.

He alleged that the ‘notorious American organisation’ Blackwater was playing havoc with law and order in the country.

Mr Bhittani said the interior minister had not said a ‘single truth’ about the law and order.

Palwasha Behram Khan, of the PML-Q, said Pakistan should take a leading role in any future US policy for the region.

Humayun Saifullah Khan urged the government to avoid relating the war against terrorism to what he called ongoing ‘skirmishes’ because it was affecting the country’s image.

Sheikh Waqas Akram, of the PML-Q, said the government must engage militants in talks alongside the military campaign. He said the US had also expressed its willingness to enter into talks with the Taliban after its generals admitted that they were losing the war in Afghanistan.

He said the situation had become so grave that no multinational company was ready to invest in Pakistan. The government was doing nothing to establish its writ in southern Punjab where the Taliban were roaming around freely, the MNA alleged.

PAKISTAN MINT: Lawmakers expressed concern over the deteriorating condition of the building of Pakistan Mint, the oldest coin press, in Lahore.

Through a call-attention notice, Shakeel Khanam Rasheed, Begum Ishrat Ashraf, Naseer Bhutta and Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho called for setting up a house committee to examine
the situation.

Planning and Development Minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin said the government was aware of the situation and had allocated Rs10 million for upgradation of the building.

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