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Pakistan can target TTP sanctuaries in Afghanistan: Defence Minister Khawaja Asif

The government announced the launch of 'Operation Azm-i-Istehkam' last week to tackle the rising threat of terrorism.
Last Updated : 28 June 2024, 14:41 IST

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Islamabad: Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has warned that Pakistan can target sanctuaries of the outlawed terrorist group TTP in Afghanistan under the newly launched military operation, as he ruled out any dialogue with the dreaded outfit as there was no "common ground".

The government announced the launch of 'Operation Azm-i-Istehkam' last week to tackle the rising threat of terrorism in the wake of lukewarm support by the Afghan Taliban to stop the use of their soil by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) rebels against Pakistan.

In an interview with the Voice of America, Asif said that the decision to launch the counter-terrorism operation was not made in haste, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.

“The decision about Azm-e-Istehkam was taken because of the economic difficulties, and it may also target TTP’s sanctuaries across the border,” he told the state-owned American news network and international radio broadcaster.

The minister said that it would not be against international law since Afghanistan had been “exporting” terrorism to Pakistan, and the “exporters” were being harboured there, The Dawn newspaper reported.

Asif said that although the TTP was operating from the neighbouring country, its cadre, about a few thousand in number, “are operating from within the country”.

He also ruled out any chances of dialogue with the banned outfit, saying there was no common ground.

Asif blamed jailed former prime minister Imran Khan's government for the resettlement of the Taliban militants in Pakistan, according to the report.

Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) "government brought back the 4,000 to 5,000 Taliban after negotiations. If that experiment was successful, let us know we can replicate it,” he said.

Talking about the Opposition's criticism of Operation Azm-i-Istehkam, Asif said that the concerns of political parties would be addressed.

“The government will bring this matter to the National Assembly so that the questions and concerns of the members can be answered and they are taken into confidence,” he said. “This is also our duty,” he was quoted as saying.

Major opposition parties, including the PTI of Imran Khan, who was also dubbed as 'Taliban Khan' for his support for the Taliban, right-wing Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) of Maulana Fazlur Rehman and secular Awami National Party (ANP) of the family of Ghaffar Khan opposed any new military offensive.

All these parties have their support in the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, which has been badly hit by the militancy. Parties like ANP paid a heavy price in the war against militancy.

These parties have demanded that Parliament be taken into confidence before any offensive against militancy was launched.

At an earlier press conference, Asif said, “There are no political aims of this operation. We only want to challenge and end the rising wave of terrorism ongoing since the past few months." He urged all government components, the judiciary, security forces, Parliament and the media to support the operation. “This is a national crisis, which is not just the Army’s responsibility but all institutions,” the minister said.

The TTP, also known as the Pakistan Taliban, was set up as an umbrella group of several militant outfits in 2007. Its main aim is to impose its strict brand of Islam across Pakistan.

The group, believed to be close to al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, has been blamed for several deadly attacks across Pakistan, including an attack on army headquarters in 2009, assaults on military bases, and the 2008 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.

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Published 28 June 2024, 14:41 IST

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