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Force only option to restore order in Balochistan: Malik


by Saleem Shahid

QUETTA: Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said the government is planning a Swat- and Malakand-like crackdown in Balochistan to crush elements involved in target killings and bomb blasts.

Talking to journalists at the airport here on Tuesday, he said that target killings and other crimes had increased in the province and the government had decided to change its strategy against outlawed and terrorist organisations.

“Enough is enough. Now the government will use force to restore peace and order in Balochistan because they (terrorists) do not understand the language of love,” he added.

Mr Malik, who is on a two-day visit to the province, said that a large number of people had written letters to the prime minister and him about this situation. “Balochistan is strong hand of Pakistan and we want prosperity and development in the province,” he said.

The minister said that an operation had become necessary in the province where armed groups had taken the place of political parties. The government cannot tolerate this and will take strict action against these groups.

Mr Malik said the government was planning to launch a large-scale operation against Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, Al Qaeda and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi. He blamed Lashkar-i-Jhangvi for the Lahore and Quetta suicide attacks.

“I have been warning for one and half years that Lashkar-i-Jhangvi has become a very dangerous entity and we would have to curb it,” he said, adding that time had come to eliminate it.

The minister said he was visiting Balochistan on the directives of the president and the prime minister and would meet Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani, leaders of political parties and officials of intelligence agencies to develop a consensus on action against anti-social elements.

He said that the NFC award and Aghaz-i-Huqooq-i-Balochistan package reflected federal government’s sincerity about solving problems of the province.

Answering a question, Mr Malik said the government had removed Frontier Corps checkposts on popular demand, but it yielded no positive results and target killings and other crimes increased. “I have not come here to restore the checkposts. This time the government has changed its strategy and action (against terrorists) would speak louder than words.”

The minister denied media reports that he wanted a complete ban on religious processions. He said he had appealed to religious scholars to either restrict processions to walled premises or shorten their route.

“It is our duty to provide security to people, but police can’t provide security to every individual, especially when a procession is long and its route is in kilometres.”

He said he would convene a meeting of religious leaders and scholars after Eid to discuss the issue and he would appeal to them to review the procedure and come up with an effective security plan.

Balochistan Home Minister Mir Zafraullah Zahri and Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani were present on the occasion.

Addressing a press conference later in the day, Mr Malik said that Baloch nationalist leaders Hyarbyar Marri and Nawabzada Brahmdagh Bugti had not responded positively to the government’s offer for talks.

He said he had met Mr Marri in London and approached Mr Bugti through an intermediary for negotiations on restoring peace in Balochistan.

“They did not give a positive response to the government offer to come to the negotiating table,” he said, adding that the government had already announced that it was ready to accept all legitimate demands of the nationalist leaders.

He regretted that the nationalist leaders ignored the talks offer, although President Asif Ali Zardari had apologised to the people of Balochistan for excesses committed during the Musharraf government.

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