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Panel formed to evolve anti-terror policy

Pakistani Parliament which was debating to formulate the country's new anti-terror policy in the backdrop of upsurge in bombings and suicide attacks by militants has formed a bipartisan committee to evolve consensus on the issue.

world Updated: Oct 22, 2008 15:21 IST

Pakistani Parliament which was debating to formulate the country's new anti-terror policy in the backdrop of upsurge in bombings and suicide attacks by militants has formed a bipartisan committee to evolve consensus on the issue.

The 16-member committee, whose formation was proposed by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani during yesterday's sitting of the joint session of the National Assembly and Senate, will draft a resolution on reshaping the policy for the war on terror.

The move came amidst sharp differences among lawmakers on the country's anti-terror policy. The Pakistan People's Party-led government is facing domestic pressure to hold talks with the local Taliban while the world community, especially the US, is calling for tougher action against the militants.

The main opposition PML-N has advocated the holding of dialogue in the restive tribal areas to ensure peace and stability in the country, saying the ultimate solution to militancy is dialogue.

"It is a universal truth that such issues cannot be tackled by using force," said PML-N spokesman Siddique-ul-Farooq.

The resolution, which is expected to reflect briefings given to lawmakers by security officials and the debate during the in-camera session, is likely to be passed unanimously on the last day of the session. Gilani is expected to wind up the debate tomorrow, media reports said.

The committee, which has been given 24 hours to complete its task, met in parliament house and began work on the draft resolution yesterday. All parliamentary groups in the two houses of parliament are represented in the panel headed by Information Minister Sherry Rehman.

Prominent leaders of the ruling PPP, opposition PML-N, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Jamaat-e-Islami are members of the committee. It will prepare recommendations and present them at the conclusion of the session to help parliament frame a national anti-terror policy, the sources said.

Gilani has appealed to all opposition parliamentary groups to join hands with the government to forge consensus on the war on terror. He said the government alone cannot combat terrorism and militancy, and needed the cooperation of the opposition in this "gigantic task".

Senator Haji Mohammad Adeel, parliamentary leader of the Awami National Party that rules the troubled North West Frontier Province, said a "lack of seriousness" in the anti-Taliban operation in Swat had strengthened militants.

He alleged that during curfew, security forces and police disappear from the roads, allowing militants to kill and plunder with impunity.

"If the government is serious in its efforts to eradicate extremism and militancy, it should ensure that its orders given to security forces are implemented in letter and in spirit. We have tried the option of dialogue and reached accords with militants of Swat, but all our peace efforts have been sabotaged by elements inimical to peace," he said.

Sources said the government wants the proposed resolution to endorse its security strategy. The PML-N has indicated it will support a policy based on national consensus while the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam has proposed a change in the existing policy for the war on terror.