Pak army:Timeout for talks with Taliban

ISLAMABAD: After watching from the sidelines as the talks initiated by the Nawaz Sharif regime with the Pakistani Taliban, moved two steps forward and four steps back, the Pakistan Army has finally stepped in to show the red card and blow the whistle, to let the PM know that its time to pull the plug on the peace-dialogue and return to the rule of the gun, as the Army re-enters the scene.   

The News reports that Pakistan Army chief General Raheel has told Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that the time for talks with Taliban is over.

“We will avenge the blood of every last soldier. Talks or no talks, the army will retaliate,” one military official told the Reuters news agency in Islamabad. The Reuters report, filed by reporter Mehreen Z Malik and edited by Mike Collett-White and Maria Golovnina, gave a revealing picture of civil-military relations in the Nawaz government, says The News.

The report said: “At Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s palatial offices in Islamabad this week, the army chief sat down to deliver the head of government a message he did not want to hear: The time for talks with the troublesome Pakistani Taliban was over.”

Nawaz Sharif came to power a year ago promising to find a peaceful settlement with the Islamist militant group, but as round after round of talks failed, the powerful armed forces favoured a military solution.

Their patience finally ran out and, late on Tuesday afternoon, during a tense meeting, the army effectively declared it would override a crucial plank of the government’s strategy and take matters into its own hands.

“The army chief and other military officers in the room were clear on the military’s policy: the last man, the last bullet,” a government insider with first-hand knowledge of the meeting told Reuters.

Asked to sum up the message General Raheel Sharif wanted to convey at the gathering, he added: “The time for talk is over.”The next day, Pakistani forces launched rare air strikes against the militants holed up in the remote, lawless tribal belt near the Afghan border. It is not clear whether Sharif authorised the operation.

On Thursday, they backed that up with the first major ground offensive against the Taliban there, undermining Nawaz Sharif’s year-long attempt to end a bloody insurgency across the country through peaceful means.

Disagreement over the militant threat is the latest row to flare up between the government and military, and relations between the two branches of power are at their lowest ebb for years, according to government officials.

The government did say talks with the Taliban would go on. “We will talk with those who are ready for it and the (military) operation is being launched against those who are not ready to come to the negotiating table,” spokesman Pervaiz Rashid told local media on Thursday. But the operations put the military, which has a long record of intervening in civilian rule through plots and coups, firmly back at the centre of Pakistan’s security policy.

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