Pak Warns Taliban of Military Operation if Ceasefire Violated

Snehesh Alex Philip/Islamabad
Pak Warns Taliban of Military Operation if Ceasefire Violated

Pakistan would launch a full-scale military operation against the Taliban if the banned militant group violated the ceasefire they announced last week, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif warned today.

Asif also made it clear that the dialogue process with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to end the decade-long insurgency cannot be indefinite.

Stressing that the talks were top priority to bring peace in the country, Asif, however, said: "If there is no advancement in talks and they fail to fulfil the objective, we can go for a military operation."

"If the ceasefire is violated, the government will be left with no other option but to launch an operation," he said, a day after the government announced a new committee to start the direct talks with the Taliban.

Asif's warning came amidst reports that the army has decided to continue with targeted air strikes on Taliban bases in case of an attack on a military installation.

Speaking to Geo News, he said the government was seeking the army's advice over the future course of action in the dialogue process. "We want to give space to the dialogue process. Our aim is peace and not the bloodshed," Asif said.

The Taliban last week announced a month-long ceasefire to facilitate the resumption of peace talks suspended by the government over the execution of 23 troops.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan yesterday said a new government negotiating team is being constituted for the second phase of the dialogue with the TTP from next week.

"It is the prime minister's discretion to include anyone in the new committee," he said.

The four-member government committee, formed to hold peace talks with the Taliban, will be replaced soon.

According to reports, a new committee would be formed consisting of ISI officials, representatives of the federal cabinet, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government and the governor to hold direct talks with the Taliban.

Asif also said the next phase of dialogue will be based on intelligence information provided by the army.

"The army will provide information on what options are available to the government," he said.

On Monday, gunmen had attacked a courtroom in Islamabad, killing 11 people in the heart of the heavily guarded capital.

But the TTP denied any role in the attack and a splinter group claimed responsibility.

Dawn News reported that a meeting of the corps commanders, chaired by army chief Gen Raheel Sharif today decided that air strikes on militant hideouts would continue if military installations were targeted.

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