Pakistan PM advocates sterner steps against militant groups
Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has called for "stern action" against all banned militant groups, saying attacks like the recent bombing of a Shia neighbourhood in Karachi were aimed at weakening the country's social fabric.
"Directions have been issued for carrying out stern action against all the banned outfits without any discrimination not only by me but by the president as well," he said in his opening remarks at a meeting of his cabinet.
"Those who are perpetrating these heinous acts are not only attempting to weaken our social fabric and democratic culture, they are also bringing a bad name to Pakistan and Islam," he said on Thursday.
The Pakistan People’s Party-led government, which is set to complete its five-year term on March 16, has come in for strong criticism for its failure to prevent attacks on the minority Shia sect.
A devastating bomb blast in the Shia neighbourhood of Abbas Town in Karachi killed 48 people and injured scores more on March 3. Nearly 200 people, a majority of them Shia Hazaras, were killed in two bombings in the southwestern city of Quetta in the first two months of the year.
Those attacks triggered countrywide protests by Shia groups and rights bodies. The government has been criticised for failing to crack down on the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which claimed responsibility for the attacks in Quetta.
However, Ashraf said his government is committed to eradicating all forms of terrorism and militancy.
"No efforts would be spared to bring the perpetrators to justice and exemplary punishment will be given to those found involved in these cowardly attacks," he added.
The premier contended that a "blame game" would not serve the "common goal of defeating terrorism". He called for collective will and efforts" by all political stakeholders and the civil society to eradicate terrorism.
Ashraf referred to two conferences of political parties that were orgnaised recently to find solutions to the issue of terrorism and said any political initiative aimed at achieving peace and stability would be welcomed.
"The government believes that the challenge of terrorism and threats to peace and security of the country can only be tackled through national consensus and collective response," he said.
Ashraf also spoke at length on the achievements of the PPP-led government, saying the party would present "ourselves to the people of Pakistan very soon" after completing a five-year term.
"I am confident that the masses would acknowledge the service rendered by this government despite financial constraints and adverse regional situation," he said.
The government, he said, is "committed to holding elections on time" and creating history by "ensuring the transfer of power by a political government".