Pakistan’s government has announced plans to launch a nationwide operation to root out armed groups in the country, the National Security Committee (NSC) said.
The move, announced on on Friday, is a potentially costly one for a country already facing full-blown economic and political crises.
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“The [NSC] meeting agreed to launch an all-out comprehensive operation with [the participation of the] entire nation and government to rid the country of the menace of terrorism,” a news release from the prime minister’s office said.
Pakistan is in danger of defaulting on its debt, with an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout programme stalled since November last year, while a bruising political battle is raging between the government and former Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The last time it launched an all-out operation against armed groups was in 2014, and it cost the country billions of dollars and resulted in more than a million people being displaced and hundreds being killed.
The country has recently seen a rise in attacks on its security forces by the Pakistan Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP) after it unilaterally ended a ceasefire agreement with the government in November last year.
The committee blamed the recent spate of attacks on the Pakistan Taliban and what it called a “thoughtless policy” towards the group – a reference to the decision to engage in talks with the Pakistan Taliban by the previous government.
“Terrorists were not just allowed to return to the country unimpeded but dangerous TTP militants were also released from jails in the name of confidence building,” the press release said.
The NSC said it held a meeting on Friday, chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and attended by the country’s military leadership, and formed a committee to make recommendations regarding the details of the anti-militant operations within two weeks.
Former Prime Minister Khan has been pushing for elections amid rising anger at the government about decades-high inflation and a crippling economic slowdown as it tries to navigate tough IMF-backed economic reforms.
On Thursday, he said the committee meeting was summoned to use security as a pretext to delay elections, warning that it would pit the military against the judiciary.
The political crisis has already severely affected economic decision-making. Pakistan’s finance minister cited domestic political turmoil as a reason to cancel his visit to Washington to attend meetings of the IMF and World Bank.