Why should Pak target good militants, wonders Sartaj Aziz

ISLAMABAD: The Adviser to Pakistan’s Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs- Sartaj Aziz has put an official seal on the widespread notion that Pakistan tends to be selective in its approach towards the problem of militancy, by making a distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists. 

In an interview to BBC Urdu on Monday, 17 November he said, “Why should America’s enemies unnecessarily become our enemies”?…Some of them were dangerous for us and some are not. Why must we make enemies out of them all?,” he said when speaking about the Haqqani Network. 

Aziz’s argument appeared quite clearly to turn on its head the conventional wisdom of indiscriminately targeting all shades of militants in the ongoing military operations in the tribal regions, arguing in favour of a more selective approach. The interview coincides with a seven-day trip of Pakistan’s Army chief General Raheel Sharif to the United States.

Pakistan has long been accused of harbouring the Haqqani Network which, according to US officials, used its sanctuaries in North Waziristan Agency as a springboard for launching attacks on foreign forces fighting a Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

Asked about the Haqqani Network, Aziz said: “When the United States attacked Afghanistan [in 2001], all those groups who we had collectively armed and trained were pushed into Pakistan. Some of them are a threat to Pakistan, while others pose no threat to Pakistan’s security. Why should we antagonise them all?”

The Express Tribune reports that officially, Islamabad has said that Operation Zarb-e-Azb launched in North Waziristan in mid-June was targeting all shades of militants. Asked about the leadership of these groups, Aziz conceded that some of them might have fled before the launch of the military operation. “However, indiscriminate action is being taken against those who are still on the ground,” he added.

Aziz claimed that the Afghan Taliban were Kabul’s headache. And the Haqqani Network was a component of the Afghan Taliban. “Kabul should hold talks with them. Pakistan can facilitate such a reconciliation process however things are not the same as they were in the nineties,” Aziz said. 

Aziz also said that his country’s soured relations with the United States were on the mend. He didn’t agree with the interviewer that there was a trust deficit between the two countries.

“Last year, US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Pakistan. Then Premier Nawaz Sharif met President Barack Obama in New York. Subsequently, the Strategic Dialogue was revived which was stalled since 2010,” he added. According to Aziz, “Gen Raheel’s visit is important given that there had been no contact between the two militaries at this level.”

Five months after the start of Zarb-e-Azb, the Pakistan military claims to have secured 90% of North Waziristan, killing nearly 1,200 militants in the process. 

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