ISLAMABAD- Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of Pakistan’s assassinated premier Benazir Bhutto, has urged military action against the Taliban as the country debates how to respond to a surge in militant attacks.
Zardari, the patron-in-chief of the main opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), told the BBC that Pakistan must “wake up” to the threat posed by militancy.
Pakistan, battling a homegrown Taliban insurgency since 2007, has endured a bloody start to the year with 110 people killed in attacks in January, according to an AFP tally.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government has been under fire for failing to make a strong response to the upsurge in violence.
The government has for months said it favoured talks with the Taliban but Zardari, 25, said he would only be willing to negotiate terms for the militants’ surrender.
“I think we’ve exhausted the option of talks. Dialogue is always an option but we have to have a position of strength,” he told the BBC.
“How do you talk from a position of strength? You have to beat them on the battlefield. They’re fighting us.”
Ministers held talks on Monday to discuss how to deal with the growing militant threat, nearly a week after air force jets bombarded suspected Taliban hideouts in North Waziristan tribal district.
North Waziristan is a major stronghold for groups linked to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, and debate is raging about whether a full-scale military ground offensive should be launched to rid the area of militants once and for all.
The United States has long pressured Pakistan to do more to wipe out militant strongholds, saying insurgents were using rear bases in North Waziristan to mount attacks on US troops in Afghanistan.
Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007 after leaving a PPP campaign rally. Her husband and Bilawal’s father Asif Ali Zardari was president from 2008-2013.