Bilawal Bhutto Zardari says his government has reversed the previous government’s ‘wrong approach’ towards the Pakistan Taliban.
Pakistani foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has accused the previous government of Prime Minister Imran Khan of following a “wrong approach” towards the armed group Pakistan Taliban (Tahreek-e-Taliban, or TTP).
“Its policy of appeasement towards the Taliban has created problems for the people of Pakistan,” Zardari told Al Jazeera in an interview on Tuesday, adding that the former approach has been ended by his government.
“We recently had a national security meeting of the top political and military leadership of our country where it was decided that we would not tolerate terrorist groups and anyone who violates the law in Pakistan,” the foreign minister said.
Pakistan has seen a rise in attacks by the Pakistan Taliban after the armed group unilaterally ended an Afghan Taliban-brokered ceasefire agreement in November.
The Pakistani Taliban, which claims to have thousands of fighters and supporters, shares some ideological affinity with the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan but it comprises of mostly local fighters.
Islamabad repeatedly accuses the Taliban government in Afghanistan of sheltering Pakistan Taliban leadership on Afghan soil – an allegation denied by Kabul.
Pakistan Taliban threat
Earlier in January, Pakistan Taliban warned the country’s main ruling parties of “concrete action” against their top leadership in the government for “declaring war” against it.
A statement released by the Pakistan Taliban in the first week of January explicitly named Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Zardari.
Former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government was against taking military action against the Pakistan Taliban before using other options.
Earlier in January he blamed the government of his successor, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, for making “dangerously irresponsible” statements against the Afghan Taliban authorities and causing strains in bilateral ties rather than seeking cooperation over the Pakistan Taliban threat.
The Pakistani foreign minister also reiterated on the need to engage with Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers despite the group’s hardline policies vis-a-vis women. Last month, the Taliban banned women from universities. Shortly after the group also banned women from working in NGOs.
Some aid groups have resumed operations after women health workers were allowed to work.
“The solution is to engage the Afghan government and try to convince them to live up to their promises to the international community whether it is to do with women’s rights or the issue of terrorism,” Zardari told Al Jazeera.
“I don’t think turning our back and disengaging is an option. And it’s certainly not an option for Pakistan which shares such a long and porous border with Afghanistan.”
In the interview with Al Jazeera, foreign minister Zardari also confirmed that he has not recalled the Pakistani ambassador in Afghanistan back home after an attack on its mission in Kabul last month.
“He was due back for some briefings and dialogues. I hope we will have the security necessary to send him soon,” he said.