Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher met with top Pakistani leaders today, praising the country’s military offensives in its tribal areas. Boucher also lauded the government’s effort to recruit local tribes to assist in fighting against militants. He said he believes that only ‘harsh military means‘ can solve Pakistan’s problems, and cautioned against talks with militants which he referred to as “people whose only goal seems to be to blow up the Pakistan state and society.”
The Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the organization against whom the Pakistani offensive is primarily directed, has offered multiple ceasefires as the military’s offensive has dragged on, most recently last week when spokesman Maulvi Omar offered unconditional talks and said the TTP would lay down arms in return for a ceasefire. The Pakistani government has not officially responded to the offer, but has launched several major air strikes since the announcement.
Boucher’s visit has also been an opportunity for officials from both the ruling coalition and the opposition to express their growing discontent with Pakistan’s terror policy. Chief Minister of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) Ameer Haider Khan Hoti urged dialogue and tribal jirgas to solve disagreements, and said guns were no solution to peace. The NWFP has been the site of some of Pakistan’s most recent fighting. Minister Hoti also called for major democratic reforms in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the neighboring region which is where the bulk of the fighting has taken place.
Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif also met with Boucher, and reportedly urged the secretary to accept whatever policy Pakistan’s parliament chooses within its territory. He also is said to have expressed concern over US violations of Pakistani sovereignty and urged the US to resolve its conflicts through dialogue, not force.
And though nothing from the government has yet indicated that this is or is not the case, outspoken opposition figure Imran Khan said the government had assured Boucher that the US-urged policies in the tribal areas would continue. Khan has been a vocal critic of US policy in the war on terror for years, and has often come out in favor of peace talks.