Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar says militant violence will be responded to with targeted strikes on extremist hideouts.
Pakistan on Wednesday unveiled its first ever counterterrorism policy after battling a homegrown Islamist insurgency for more than a decade, announcing that every act of militant violence would be met with retaliation on their bases.
Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced the “national security policy” before Parliament a day after it was formally approved by the cabinet, ending years of waiting for a set of unified rules of engagement for terrorism.
The move comes as talks between the government and the Taliban that began earlier this month have stalled following the killing of 23 soldiers being held by the militants. Pakistan has responded by carrying out a series of deadly airstrikes in the northwest that have left over 100 militants dead.
Khan said the shelling was in line with the government’s new policy and that strikes would continue alongside efforts to negotiate with the Taliban. “We have made a significant shift in our policy, now we will react to each and every act of terrorism in the country with an attack on the headquarters of the militants along the Afghan border,” he said.
“Whenever there is a strike anywhere, we will target headquarters of the militants and it’s because of this new policy that we have been carrying out precise strikes in the tribal areas,” he added.
Commenting on the status of the dialogue between the government and Taliban representatives, Khan said talks have been put on hold but would “resume anytime soon and both negotiations and targeted strikes will go hand in hand.”
The policy document is 100 pages long and is split into three parts, one of which would remain secret, said the minister. The document designates the National Counter Terrorism Authority as the body that will deal with nationwide intelligence reports. “We are establishing a rapid response force, which will be fully equipped with helicopters and latest technology to carry out counter terrorism operations,” Khan added.
Security experts have long called for rapid response teams to deal with terror incidents in crowded urban environments and track down militants.
Attempts by previous governments at formulating a national security policy have foundered over a lack of consensus and political will. Political and military analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi said the new policy was ambitious and comprehensive but its implementation “remains an open question.”
“They have not left out anything, it’s an all-inclusive package, but has the government the financial, administrative and political capacity to implement it?” he said.