JUI-F opposes use of force in Tribal Areas: Fazlur Rehman emerges as ‘Taliban spokesman’ in parliament

JUI-F chief opposes use of force in Tribal Areas: Fazl emerges as ‘Taliban spokesman’ in parliament

* Offers mediation between govt and Taliban
* PML-N calls for fresh anti-terror policy
* Wants any secret US-Musharraf deals made public

By Irfan Ghauri and Muhammad Bilal

ISLAMABAD: Fazlur Rehman, the chief of his own government-allied faction of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, criticised the government’s counterterrorism efforts during Thursday’s in-camera parliamentary sitting on national security – coming out as a spokesman for Taliban.

Calling for a truce, he offered to mediate between the government and the Taliban “if the government sincerely wants to resolve the issue”.

Sources familiar with the proceedings said Fazl criticised the government for ‘blindly following US policies’ and strongly opposed the military operation in Swat and the Tribal Areas.

“Of the government’s policy of three Ds (dialogue, development and deterrence), our party believes in the first two,” a Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl legislator quoted him as saying.

He came down hard on the government’s statement that seminaries were breeding terrorism, saying the previous regime had adopted the stance to malign religious schools at America’s behest. Talking about the increasing incidents of US incursions into Pakistan, he said the government had compromised the country’s sovereignty.

PML-N: Earlier, opening the debate, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Nisar Ali Khan grilled the government for pursuing former president Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf’s policies on the war on terror. He demanded that Musharraf and his officials who formulated the policy be summoned in parliament.

He repeated the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s demand that the government make public any secret agreements between the former president and the US, and formulate a ‘national policy’ to fight terrorism through parliament.

He said law and order could worsen if the government did not change its policies including its counterterrorism strategy.

Opposition leader in Senate Kamil Ali Agha proposed forming a committee with equal representation from the opposition and the government to hold dialogue with all stakeholders in FATA, ‘including militants’.

The committee should then put together a joint resolution for the parliament to adopt.

He admitted that the policy framed by Pervez Musharraf had failed, but claimed the present government was following it ‘more vigorously’. He also demanded parliament be briefed on the agreements and dialogue with militants so far.

FATA legislator Munir Khan Orakzai asked the government to stop the military operation and engage tribal elders to restore peace in the troubled areas.

Leader of the House in the Senate Raza Rabbani defended the government’s three-pronged strategy and rejected the allegation that his government had been following Musharraf’s policies, saying it had instead called the parliamentary session to develop national consensus on dealing with terrorism.

The debate will resume as the house meets again at 10am today (Friday). (Daily Times)