ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan denied reports about deepening divisions between the civilian government and the army on Saturday and said it had yet to decide whether to call off attempts to engage Pakistani Taliban insurgents in peace talks.
On Friday, Reuters quoted a government insider as saying that during a tense meeting this week, Pakistan’s powerful army chief told Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that the time for talks with the Taliban was over.
Sharif came to power a year ago promising to find a peaceful settlement and has put talks at the heart of his security policy.
But as round after round of talks failed, the army started to lean towards a military solution in the troubled North Waziristan region where the militants are holed up.
Pakistani media almost never report on the often difficult relationship between the civilian government and the army.
In a statement on Saturday, the Interior Ministry said there was no tension with between the government and the military.
“Clarifying the situation the (Interior) Minister said the meeting was held in a highly congenial and positive atmosphere in which wide-ranging issues pertaining to national security including the situation on our borders was discussed,” it said.
“No decision for a full scale military operation in North Waziristan was taken,” the ministry quoted the minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, as saying.
“There was no decision to call off the dialogue process, nor was any such demand made from either side as reported by the news agency,” he added.
The day after the meeting, Pakistani forces launched rare air strikes against militants holed up in the remote, lawless tribal belt on the Afghan border.
Then on Thursday, they backed that up with the first major ground offensive against the Taliban, putting the military, which has a long record of intervening in civilian rule, firmly back at the center of Pakistan’s security policy.
“Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the current state of airstrikes and limited military action is in continuation of the already taken decision that any act of violence or terrorism against civilian or military targets will meet a calibrated and measured response,” the statement said.
Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Sophie Hares