PM warns against launching new military operations


* Gilani says security forces have to secure cleared areas first
* Says delay in judges’ restoration was his biggest mistake

ISLAMABAD: The government is “not in a rush” to launch new offensives in the country’s border areas, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said on Wednesday, adding that Islamabad’s focus will first be on holding on to the territory it had reclaimed from the terrorists.

“We have to hold the areas we have reclaimed first and we should not be in a rush to launch new offensives. We have to consolidate first,” the PM said to a question regarding the next steps in the war against terrorism in an interview with the Financial Times.

Deciders: “It’s up to the military and political leadership to think about how to proceed and when to go to other areas,” he said, adding that one of his priorities was to work on an “exit strategy” for military forces that had taken swaths of territory held by the Taliban in Malakand, Swat and South Waziristan.

Admitting success in arresting “high-value targets”, he warned against expanding the military front in spite of unity in Pakistan, where he now feels “the civil, political and military leadership are on the same page”.

In what he described as a “guerrilla war”, he said militants were now moving into some of the country’s most densely populated areas, such as Punjab, after being dislodged from their mountain strongholds.

On the Pak-US strategic dialogue, Gilani said it would prove positive in improving relations and removing mistrust between the two countries.

“We are upgrading our relationship. And that relationship is the strategic dialogue which I think would be in the benefit of both countries, as we can bridge the trust deficit and work jointly on one issue – the war against terrorism and extremism,” he said. Asked if Pakistan would seek a civil nuclear agreement from the US similar to the one it signed with India, the PM said, “If there is any discrimination, there would be no regional stability.”

About Islamabad’s strategy in the wake of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recent offer of reconciliation in Afghanistan, the PM said, “You cannot achieve stability in Afghanistan without Pakistan. Pakistan is in a very unique position to help Kabul.”

When asked about the balance of power between the president, prime minister and parliament, Gilani said the president should be a ceremonial head but there should be balance of power between the Presidency and parliament.

Biggest mistake: Talking about his mistakes, he said he felt he should have restored the judiciary much earlier. “That is my biggest mistake so far,” he said.


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