Pakistan’s Prime Minister Sayed Yousuf Raza Gilani said members of the coalition government will discuss on July 23 strategy to combat terrorism which has spread throughout the nation.
“The global war on terror is our own war,” Gilani said in his first televised address to the nation late last night. “A country where citizens are not safe cannot attract investment or progress.”
Gilani, 56, who leads the three-month-old fractured coalition government led by the Pakistan Peoples Party, is likely to propose a combination of negotiation and military action. The government deployed paramilitary troops in the country’s northwest tribal area of Khyber Agency last month to combat rebels threatening to capture major cities.
His administration is tackling extremism using a strategy of negotiation, economic and political development and the selective use of military force in an effort to cut terrorist attacks that killed more than 2,000 people in Pakistan last year.
Pakistanis prefer negotiations over military action, according to an opinion poll by the U.S. based International Republican Institute released on July 18. Seventy-one percent of respondents in the survey supported political talks and 61 percent want to use development and education to battle extremists, compared with 9 percent who preferred employing force.
Gilani’s coalition government took office after opposition parties won February’s elections defeating supporters of President Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a military coup in 1999 and was Pakistan’s army chief until November.
The coalition is threatened by a split between its two biggest parties over how to reinstate judges fired by Musharraf.
Asif Ali Zardari, co-chairman of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, wants to restore judges through a proposed constitutional amendment that would also reduce Musharraf’s powers, including his right to dismiss Parliament. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose party is the second-biggest member of the coalition, wants judges to be reinstated through a parliamentary resolution passed by majority lawmakers.
“The Pakistani people will hear good news about the reinstatement of judges soon,” Prime Minister Sayed Yousuf Raza Gilani said in a televised address to the nation.
Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism, deployed more than 100,000 soldiers in Federally Administered Tribal Areas to combat Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists crossing the 2,430-kilometer (1,510-mile) frontier with Afghanistan.
The U.S. and NATO say the policy of holding talks with militants in the tribal areas has led to increased attacks by Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. Twenty-eight coalition soldiers were killed in June in the deadliest month for the force in Afghanistan since the conflict began there in 2001, the U.S. Defense Department said earlier this month.
The U.S. has given Pakistan $10 billion in mostly military aid since Sept. 11, 2001, with the aim of securing the nuclear- armed country against al-Qaeda. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization and U.S. intelligence agencies say the terrorist network uses bases in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region to train, re-arm and plan attacks against troops in Afghanistan.