Peace process: Army plans response to North Waziristan blast

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MIRAMSHAH / ISLAMABAD: Within hours of the killing of nine Frontier Corps (FC) soldiers in a roadside blast in North Waziristan, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held a one-on-one meeting on Thursday to discuss the security situation.

unnamedOfficials said the army chief conveyed his decision to the prime minister about the likely response from the military.

A senior military official told The Express Tribune that the army would respond to the provocation by militants as “terrorism and peace talks cannot go hand in hand”.

“The attack is a clear act of provocation and is a serious blow to the peace process. This will have serious repercussions,” added the official, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The Express Tribune has learnt that the military is likely to launch ‘massive air strikes’ in the militant strongholds in retaliation for the roadside blast. “Naturally there will be a response from our side. We will go after those who are responsible for the terrorist attacks,” the official said without elaborating the nature of response.

Separately, an official statement issued from the Prime Minister’s office said the army chief briefed PM Nawaz Sharif about the security situation in Karachi, Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). He also shared the details of Thursday’s terror attacks in Miranshah, said the statement. The prime minister expressed his grief over the loss of precious lives of Pakistan Army soldiers, saying that the sacrifices by “our patriotic soldiers will not go in vain.”

On Thursday morning, militants detonated an improvised explosive device near an FC vehicle in the Ghulam Khan tehsil of North Waziristan, killing nine soldiers and injuring 10 others. A security official said that a vehicle loaded with FC officials was en route to the Zero Point check post near the Pak-Afghan border in the morning.

The vehicle was destroyed by the impact of the explosion.

The official added that the injured were taken to Miramshah Fort, while FC soldiers along with other security forces surrounded the area and launched a search operation. No one was arrested in the operation and no group has taken responsibility for the attack yet.

The latest attack came at a time when the government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are pushing for a breakthrough in the deadlocked peace process.

There has been little headway in the negotiations since the face-to-face meeting between the government negotiators and TTP political shura held in March. The two sides are trying to pencil in a second round of talks but growing mistrust has blocked the peace process.

The army seems to be upset over the protracted peace process as it strongly feels that militants are simply buying time to avoid a possible military operation. In his first major public speech since he became army chief last November, General Raheel Sharif last week warned militants to unconditionally accept the country’s constitution otherwise they will be taken to task. Despite recent setbacks, the government of PM Nawaz Sharif is still pushing for an elusive peace deal with the TTP and its affiliates.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2014.

 

 

 

 

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