In an interview with the BBC, PPP’s patron-in-chief says the time for talks has passed.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of Pakistan’s former president Asif Ali Zardari, has urged military action against the Taliban as the country debates how to respond to a surge in militant attacks.
Bhutto Zardari, the patron-in-chief of the main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), told the BBC that Pakistan must “wake up” to the threat posed by militancy.
Pakistan, battling a homegrown Taliban insurgency since 2007, has endured a bloody start to the year with 110 people killed in attacks in January, according to an AFP tally. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government has been under fire for failing to make a strong response to the upsurge in violence. The government has for months said it favored talks with the Taliban but Bhutto Zardari, 25, said he would only be willing to negotiate terms for the militants’ surrender.
“I think we’ve exhausted the option of talks. Dialogue is always an option but we have to have a position of strength,” he told the BBC. “How do you talk from a position of strength? You have to beat them on the battlefield. They’re fighting us.”
Ministers held talks on Monday to discuss how to deal with the growing militant threat, nearly a week after air force jets bombarded suspected Taliban hideouts in North Waziristan. The tribal agency is a major stronghold for groups linked to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and debate is raging over whether a full-scale military ground offensive should be launched to rid the area of militants once and for all.
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.
However, Bhutto Zardari said the threat had spread and needed to be dealt with. “It’s not only confined to North Waziristan,” he said. “They are attacking us in Karachi … we would like to eradicate the Taliban from Pakistan.”
Bhutto Zardari, who has recently taken on a more active role in his party, says he never wanted to be a politician. “Now I think it is time for me or there is the opportunity for me to start taking on more responsibility,” he told the BBC. “But I will be focused more on party politics and working with every level of the party—I don’t want to parachute my self in from the top. I want to work with the grassroots, with every level of the party across the country and my aim is the 2018 elections.”