Opposition blasts Nisar for “flawed strategy” to deal with Sikandar
The opposition on Tuesday blasted the federal government’s “flawed strategy” to deal with the Sikandar drama staged in the federal capital last week and stressed the urgency for evolving a national counterterrorism policy.
The opposition parliamentarians criticised the federal government during a debate on an adjournment motion moved by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Raza Rabbani about the Sikandar incident. They said it was astonishing how a lone gunman kept the entire capital hostage by brandishing his weapons and putting his demands before the government while the government “abdicated” its writ. They said the incident had brought a bad name to the country and it would encourage militants to challenge the writ of the state even in the federal capital.
Rabbani said PPP leader Zamurd Khan should be given a medal for his bravery, urging the government to rise above party bias. Initiating the debate, Rabbani put forth 17 questions about the incident and sought a response from Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
“It appeared as if there was no federal government. Live coverage of the drama continued unabated for over five hours. The government must answer how the gunman entered the red zone and who was behind the whole operation,” he said.
Rabbani also referred to contradictions in two public statements of the interior minister. He said that initially Nisar had claimed that Sikandar was not a member of any terrorist outfit, saying he was insane and had acted out of anger. However, he added, later the minister claimed that Sikandar was linked with foreign hands and international mobsters. He questioned the dealy of action against Sikandar when Nisar knew that he was linked to foreign agents.
He asked why the phone calls made by the suspect were not traced. Rabbani claimed the incident had sent a very wrong message to the world and the chaos among the administration and the government had been exposed, defaming Pakistan internationally.
Senator Rehman Malik said the talks offer by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was merely an effort to gain time. He said the country stood threatened as the Punjab Taliban had overpowered the TTP hierarchy. He claimed that these were the same forces who had broken Pakistan in 1971.
The former interior minister alleged foreign involvement in the unrest in Pakistan, saying that India and Afghan elements were providing weapons and money to militant forces.
Awami National Party (ANP) Senator Abdul Nabi Bangash said that from the Sikandar incident, it seemed as if the government was reluctant to protect its citizens from militants. He said the interior minister, cabinet members and even the prime minister was in Lahore.
“The government should also move the capital to Lahore if all cabinet members and their meetings and the prime minister’s speech to the nation have to be held in Lahore,” he said.
Bangash asserted that by delaying action against a lone suspect, the government had sent a message to terrorists that the government’s security apparatus could not handle such a situation and even half a dozen militants could take control of all sensitive areas of the capital.
He also blamed the government for ignoring the militancy-hit province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), complaining that no top functionary of the federal government had visited Peshawar or Dera Ismail (DI) Khan after the DI Khan jailbreak.
“The prime minister and interior minister visited Quetta after the bomb blasts. They also visited Karachi after terrorist incidents. However, they did not visit KP because Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is in the government there. This is a very wrong signal you are sending to the Pashtuns,” he said.
Senator Shahi Syed paid tribute to the martyrs who had given their lives to save the country from the militants. He appreciated former National Assembly member Zamurd Khan for his bravery and his timely decision to overpower the armed man.
Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed stressed the need for chalking out a national strategy to counter-terrorism.
“We have to think above party lines on the issue of terrorism,” he said.
Hussain also demanded the revival of the parliamentary committee on national security to tackle security issues and terrorism. He said the opposition parties wanted to strengthen the government’s efforts and hoped that the treasury would also respond adequately.
He endorsed Zamurd Khan’s effort and said he had made history with his bravery.
Senator Haji Adeel said the government had failed to evolve any strategy on counterterrorism. “Economic empowerment of the people is necessary as poverty is breeding terrorism,” he said.
Senator Zahid Khan said the Islamabad incident was bizarre and the government should devise a clear strategy to deal with such incidents in the future. “We are ready to assist the government on all forums,” he added.
Senator Kamil Ali Agha said the incident had exposed the government’s failure to tackle such issues. He said that no place was secure in the country as terrorists roamed around with the ability to strike at will. He supported the idea of reviving the parliamentary committee on national security.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Senator Colonel (r) Tahir Hussain Mashhadi said the incident revealed the paralysis of the government’s security apparatus. He said even after so many days, the nation did not know who had directed the drama.
“Militant forces are taking over while the people in the government look on,” he said.
The proceedings were adjourned till Wednesday with a unanimous decision that after a speech by opposition leader Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, Nisar would finish the debate over the Sikandar episode.