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United against militancy

world Updated: Oct 23, 2008 22:56 IST
Robert Birsel
Robert Birsel
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Pakistan’s parliament has for the first time united to condemn terrorism, which members said posed a grave danger to stability, and has begun to “take ownership” of policy to tackle it, analysts said on Thursday.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan, a major partner in the US-led campaign against militancy, is grappling with militant violence and an economic crisis that have raised fears for its stability.

A joint session of parliament ended a two-week debate late on Wednesday with the unanimous passage of a resolution that essentially backs the stand of the government led by the party of assassinated formerprime minister Benazir Bhutto.

“Extremism, militancy and terrorism in all forms and manifestations pose a grave danger to the stability and integrity of the nation-state,” the members said in their resolution.

Support for the US-led campaign against terrorism is deeply unpopular with many Pakistanis who say the country should not be fighting what they see as America’s war.

The government has vowed to maintain support for the US campaign and adopted what it calls a three-pronged strategy to fight militancy.

It says talks should be held with militants who lay down their arms, northwestern regions on the Afghan border where militants flourish should be developed and force used as a last resort.

During the debate, some opposition members of parliament had called for an end to support for the United States.

In the resolution, parliament urged a review of the strategy and said dialogue must be the highest priority.

“The good feature is they all seem to be united in saying ‘this is the greatest threat’,” said retired general and security analyst Talat Masood.

“They own the threat at least. Previously, they had been saying this is an American war.”

The parliamentarians highlighted the importance of negotiations. “Dialogue must now be the highest priority as a principal instrument of conflict management and resolution,” they said. “Dialogue will be encouraged with all those
elements willing to abide by the constitution of Pakistan and rule of law.”

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told parliament he welcomed the resolution, which he said gave the government a fresh mandate to reorganise its war against extremism, the state news agency quoted him as saying.