National security adviser says government will consider ‘using force’ a more viable option now.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s national security adviser, Sartaj Aziz, said on Tuesday that the government was increasingly inclined to wage an offensive against the local Taliban as the country endures a wave of bloody attacks.
On a visit to Washington, where officials have long backed action against extremist outposts, Aziz described North Waziristan as the “last challenge” in asserting state control.
“The government decided initially in consultation with all political parties to have a dialogue with the Taliban,” he said. “But that is proving much more difficult, so the other option of using force … is likely to be now considered more seriously,” he said at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.
Sharif swept to power last year calling for a negotiated solution with the Pakistani Taliban but has come under pressure after a bloody start to the year. Some 110 people have been killed in attacks in January, according to an AFP tally. The government initially hesitated at full-scale military action, fearing that it would set off violent reprisals in Pakistan’s cities but growing public resentment due to the recent wave of violence has prompted a change in tactics.
The United States has long pressured Pakistan to do more to wipe out militant strongholds, saying insurgents were using rear bases in North Waziristan to mount attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The United States has taken action on its own through drone attacks on Pakistani territory, which are deeply unpopular with the Pakistani public due in part to civilian casualties.
“We think they are becoming counter-productive and lead to collateral damage which creates more problems,” Aziz said, referring to the drone program.
Aziz met Monday with Secretary of State John Kerry, who promised sustained economic support and credited the country’s security efforts, saying: “I think few have suffered more at the hands of terrorists and extremists than the people of Pakistan.”