Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday called for national unity against terrorism “or else history will not forgive us”, as he addressed the Apex Committee meeting in Peshawar that was convened after a deadly terrorist attack in the city’s Police Lines Area claimed the lives of 101 people, mostly policemen.
His remarks come as Pakistan has been hit by a wave of terrorism, mostly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but also Balochistan and the Punjab town of Mianwali, which borders KP.
January was the deadliest month since 2018, in which 134 people lost their lives — a 139 per cent spike — and 254 received injuries in at least 44 militant attacks across the country.
As he began his speech, he called for unity across the political spectrum and expressed frustration at the criticism levelled against the federal government from opposition parties in the wake of terrorism.
“Over 80 people who were praying at the mosque were subjected to martyrdom barbarically,” he said. “We are here to express sympathies with their families and this is the purpose of the meeting.
“This [act of] terrorism managed to breach the security check post and reach the mosque. We should not feel hesitant in admitting the facts.”
He said it was being asked how terrorism — which had been eradicated a few years ago — let this happen. However, he hit back at the “conspiracy theories” that spread in the wake of the attack.
“In the wake of this incident, undue criticism was seen on social media. 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 he was certain that the entire Pakistani nation was thinking about how the menace would be tackled in future. “What measures will be taken to stop this terror wave? It is the need of the hour that provinces and the Centre along with the leaderships of political parties take ownership and shun their differences, be they political or related to any religious reasons.
“We should unite and tackle this.”
He said this was the “moment which makes or breaks a nation”. He vowed the country would “collectively” overcome this challenge. “All resources will be mobilised. This meeting reaffirms our aim to sit together until this menace is eradicated.”
The prime minister said in the past years, operations Zarb-i-Azb and Raddul Fasaad “broke the back of terrorism” and sacrifices were rendered in its wake. “Our friends and foes give testimony to this,” he added.
“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 history would always remember the martyrs and their sacrifices. “And such sacrifices cannot be forgotten.”
However, he called for avoiding “criticism for the sake of criticism”. “We have to talk about [taking] responsibility.”
He said following terrorist acts in Bannu, Nowshera and Peshawar the Centre was at the receiving end of criticism for “not supporting us” and “there is a dearth of resources”.
PM Shehbaz said: “I want to tell you that Rs417 billion were given [to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since 2010] and I want to give credit to the then federal government of the PPP and leadership of the four provinces that they achieved NFC award.”
He said Rs417bn were given to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in these 13 years “but where did this money go”.
“We had formed CTD [in Punjab] in Rs2.5bn and similar forces should have been formed here. We built Safe City in Rs14bn. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had Rs417bn, they should have built safe city centres and satellite forensic labs. Nobody would have questioned them.”
He vowed that despite the economic challenges to the country, his government was with the province. “The terms that we have to meet with the IMF are beyond imagination. Despite all these problems, the Centre is with you. We will strengthen CTD to the best of our abilities; we are here to serve you.”
He again returned to questioning how the Rs417bn was spent and said if “one-fourth of the amount was spent on the purpose (counter-terrorism) then people would be sleeping soundly”.
He said: “If only this would have happened, but it did not. We now have to move. Terrorists have no religion, they attack humanity. And there could nothing worse than this.”
He again called for unity. “We have to avoid differences and become one wall [against terrorism]. The political leadership has to take ownership. All constitutional institutions have to unite people and if we don’t do this, our purpose won’t be fulfilled.”
He said he also invited religious leaders yesterday for the meeting and the APC on Tuesday. “I asked all of them despite differences — if there are any. If we do not act now, history will not forgive us.”
“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.”
I invited religious leaders yesterday for this meeting and the APC on Tuesday. I asked all of them despite differences if there are any. If we do not act now, then history will not forgive us.
Without naming the PTI, the prime minister lamented that militants were “brought here to be settled” but they were not willing to work together for the country’s future.
Earlier, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said the prime minister would chair an important meeting of the Apex Committee in Peshawar today.
Television footage showed the Prime Minister and other stakeholders taking their seats at the Governor House in Peshawar.
The committee, which was formed in 2015 for each province following the Army Public School attack to oversee the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism, will meet at the Governor House and comprise all stakeholders, including law enforcement and intelligence officials.
In a tweet, the minister said that the meeting will discuss anti-terrorism measures.
All stakeholders, police, rangers and senior officers of sensitive institutions are participating in the meeting.
Meanwhile, PTI Chairman Imran Khan reiterated his disapproval of the incumbent government, and held it responsible for the spread of terrorism.
He accused the government of “destroying the economy, democracy and the rule of law.”
“And when I look at terrorism being allowed to spread under my nose, I wonder how Shahbaz Sharif can be so shameless!” the ex-PM tweeted.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had on Thursday convened a multi-party conference (MPC) to discuss “important challenges” being faced by Pakistan.
According to an announcement by Aurangzeb, the MPC will be held in Islamabad on Feb 7, for which an invitation has also been extended to PTI chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan.
More to follow
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