Civil, military leaders agree to speed up Karachi op

Top civil and military leaders have decided to speed up the surgical operation in Karachi which has apparently slowed down in recent weeks. Moreover, they fine-tuned the agenda of army chief General Raheel Sharif’s upcoming crucial visit to the United States.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired a meeting on security on Monday, his office said in a statement. “Issues of national security were discussed and different stages of the National Action Plan [against terrorism]were reviewed,” it added without elaborating.

Attendees at the meeting included army chief Gen Raheel Sharif, cabinet members Ishaq Dar and Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Zubair Mahmood Hayat, National Security Adviser Lt Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua, PM’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Tariq Fatemi and other senior civil and military officials.

Though the official readout did not say much about the meeting, sources said the Karachi operation was the main talking point. The meeting took important decisions vis-à-vis Karachi operation which will play out in the coming days, according to sources.

The Karachi operation apparently slowed down, especially after federal and provincial lawmakers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement resigned en bloc, and the government engaged them in talks in an attempt to persuade them to rescind their decision.

The MQM lawmakers withdrew their resignations after the government acquiesced to their demand for a ‘Grievances Redressal Committee’ on the Karachi operation. Sources said that during its drawn-out negotiations with the MQM, the government gave an impression that the Karachi operation has been frozen which did not sit well with the ‘stakeholders’.

Last week, the Rangers had announced the launch of next phase of the Karachi operation, to apprehend terrorists suspected of involvement in attacks on law enforcers, lawyers and witnesses.

According to sources, there were a number of key decisions about the Karachi operation which were pending approval of the political leadership. The military leadership convinced the civilian leadership on the future course of the operation, and the meeting approved the pending decisions. Sources said the outcome of these decisions would be visible in the coming days.

The meeting reiterated that the Karachi operation would continue till it achieved the set goals. Sources said the law enforcement agencies have completed investigation in key cases that involve senior leaders of political parties in Sindh. However, arresting high-profile political figures required the go-ahead from the government.

The security huddle also discussed the state of special courts set up under the Protection of Pakistan Act which are still dormant. Sources said the military leadership had urged the civilian government, particularly the interior minister, to refer cases to special courts as well.

COAS USA visit

Sources said the meeting finalised the agenda for the army chief’s visit to Washington later this week.

The premier’s top aides, including Janjua, Aziz and Fatemi, gave their input to the army chief on the agenda of his five-day trip.

Key subjects expected to be discussed during Gen Raheel’s trip include the US’s plan to limit Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programme in exchange for supporting Pakistan’s bid to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group and a potential civil nuclear deal like the one Washington signed with New Delhi. The subject was due to be raised during Nawaz’s meeting with President Obama at the White House last month, but intense media scrutiny leading up to that meeting meant that the topic was dropped from the agenda.

On Afghanistan, sources said the army chief might take up the matter of a trust deficit between Islamabad and Kabul on resumption of the stalled peace process.

Pakistan had in July hosted the first direct talks between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban. However, the talks were scrapped after news of the Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Omar’s death emerged.

Noting the divisions in the Taliban, the Afghan government too has not expressed its desire to resume talks. In this regard, the army chief is expected to convince US authorities to bring Kabul back to the negotiating table.

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