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Pakistan Parliament Passes Vague Terrorism Resolution


A suspected U.S. missile strike has hit a Taliban-linked religious school in western Pakistan, killing 11 people. The strike followed Pakistan's parliament passing a unanimous resolution that says militancy threatens the integrity of the country and dialogue is the best option for addressing it. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad.

Locals in North Waziristan say missiles hit an extremist religious school that belonged to a cleric linked to veteran Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani.

The Afghan militant leader is considered to run one of the most powerful Taliban networks in Afghanistan. In September, a suspected U.S. missile strike hit one of his homes in North Waziristan.

Since August, more than 12 suspected missile strikes have hit targets in Pakistan's Taliban-dominated tribal areas - a sharp increase from the periodic strikes that have occurred in recent years.

Despite the rising Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan that U.S., NATO and Afghan officials partially attribute to spreading Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan, many Pakistanis remain ambivalent about militarily confronting the Taliban threat.

With Pakistan's security forces locked in fierce battles against Taliban fighters in parts of the volatile northwest, the government has tried to gain parliament's backing for a broad counter-terrorism strategy.

Following two weeks of closed-door meetings in Islamabad, lawmakers Wednesday unanimously voted for a resolution that said militants pose a "grave danger" to the integrity of the state and pursuing dialogue is now "the highest priority."

Pakistan Muslim League-N Party lawmaker Iqbal Zafar Jhagra said Pakistan's allies must understand that military force is not the answer.

"We want to have good relations with them, but at the same time we want to sit down and tell them that if you want to overcome terrorism, then you must address the root," said Jhagra.

Wednesday's 14-point resolution calls for dialogue with parties who are willing to abide by the Constitution. It also says that Pakistan's territory shall not be used for attacks against other countries and all foreign fighters will be expelled.

On the sensitive issue of using the military to fight the Taliban, the document says the military will be replaced in the tribal areas "as early as possible" by civilian law enforcement agencies.

The resolution marks the first time that Pakistan's parliament has unanimously backed a counter-terrorism policy statement.

The ruling Pakistan People's Party celebrated the vote as a national backing of the government's counter-terrorism approach. But opposition lawmakers, such as Jamaat Islami Senator Kurshid Ahmad, argued that the vote was a repudiation of the government's policies and a call to abandon the ongoing military campaign.

"In fact the parliament has said that, enough is enough, we want to change now. And the message has been given not only to Pakistan's leadership but also to America," said Kurshid Ahmad.

Although lawmakers spent the past two weeks debating the country's counter-terrorism strategy, Wednesday's resolution calls for yet another review of Pakistan's national security strategy.

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