Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Sunday warned of retaliatory attacks from terrorists following the execution of high-profile militants in the country. Speaking at a press conference, he rejected the “justification” offered by the Taliban fugitives for the attack on a Peshawar school, declaring that Pakistan Army had never targeted women and children.
“Pakistan Army is a highly responsible and disciplined force. Even Osama bin Ladin’s family members were sent back to their respective countries in an honourable manner, although we could have also handed them over to the US,” he added. He said that after the Peshawar massacre the government had no option but to widen a military offensive against terrorists, adding that “we still want to ensure a minimum possible collateral damage during the operation against militants’ hideouts”.
He said that before the launch of a military offensive in North Waziristan in June, he along with chief of army staff General Raheel Sharif in June had a mutual stance that there must be minimum possible collateral damage during the operation. “If targeting civilians had been our aim, then we could have wiped out the entire Miranshah where militants and peaceful citizens lived side by side through a couple of [air] strikes. But we don’t target non-combatants,” he asserted.
“We are in a state of war,” he declared, and added, “The supporters and sympathisers of militants live among us and it is an internal war. It’s the responsibility of every citizen to keep a vigil on such people”. “The militants look like us and they have sympathisers who live among us,” he warned.
Urging nation’s support, Nisar said: “The army has been fighting against militants for some time now but the nation needs to stand up and strengthen the hands of government and the armed forces.” The interior minister urged people to report any suspicious activity around them to the nearest police station. He called upon hotels and motels to be cautious in relation to their guests as terrorists could use such places for their stay.
Nisar warned landlords to rent out their property carefully and after proper investigation, adding any kind of negligence or complacency on their part could land them in trouble. Nisar also requested the media to ‘black out’ militants and not to provide them any coverage. He also appealed to mosques and seminaries to report suspicious people and asked cellular companies to issue SIM cards only after proper scrutiny.
He said that over 90 percent seminaries are not involved in terror-related activities and the unity shown by ulema in the wake of the Peshawar terror attack has united the entire nation, adding we all must join hands to get rid of growing militancy. “And yes if there is any [seminary] involved in such activity, we must isolate them…it’s `now’ or `never’. After the Peshawar attack the nation is united and the military and civilian leadership and the clergy are on the same page to root out terrorism,” he maintained.
He said the government had blocked 500,000 illegal SIMs but still terrorists have access to some SIMs to carry out suicide attacks. In the case of the Peshawar attack, too, terrorists remained in touch with their colleagues through cellular phones. “Illegal SIMs play a very big role in terrorist attacks that are carried out. In the Peshawar attack, five SIMs were issued by a private company that helped facilitate the attack. We will see what action can be taken and whether an FIR can be lodged against that company,” he added.
To a question about the perpetrators of the Peshawar school attack, he said all the suspects identified so far were Pakistanis, adding while others who played the role of facilitators and abettors have also been taken into custody. About the lifting of moratorium on the execution of death penalty, he said it was done by the prime minister soon after the Peshawar incident. “The chief of army staff requested the prime minister to lift the moratorium…usually it [lifting the moratorium] takes 2 to 3 weeks but on the request of the army chief it was lifted with two to three hours by the prime minister to punish the convicted terrorists,” he added.
The joint group of experts who is busy in making recommendations towards formulation of a comprehensive ‘national action plan’, he said it will be ready within a day or two. “The experts are working on it round the clock and it will be presented before the nation very soon,” he added.
“We must know that the people whose near and dear ones are killed in terror attacks have also human rights and the moratorium was lifted to make sure that human rights of citizens are protected,” he maintained. Asked about hardliner religious cleric Maulana Aziz’s threat to peaceful citizens, Nisar got cold feet and started stammering, saying he had had good relations with the Maulana’s father and he should follow in the footsteps of his late father.
SOURCE: RECORDER REPORT