by Muhammad Tahir
ISLAMABAD, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in his first televised address to the nation since he assumed office in June, hinted of a decisive military action against the Taliban to put an end the bloodshed in the country.
Sharif, the first Pakistani leader to assume the office of prime minister for the third time, said on Monday that terrorism has claimed the lives of over 40,000 people in terror attacks, adding that he does not want the killing to continue.
"Being the prime minister, every Pakistani is my kith and kin. I cannot shoulder the funerals of my sons every day," Sharif said in his address aired live by all TV channels.
Sharif mentioned about possible talks with the militants but at the same time warned of major operation if they refused to stop terror attacks.
"Like every Pakistani, I want an early end to this bloodshed, whether it is through the process of dialogue or heavy use of the state force. All the institutions of the country are unanimously united on this national issue," Sharif said.
Sharif has sent a strong message to the Taliban and other armed groups blamed for most of the attacks on security forces and civilians.
The Pakistani Taliban, who withdrew their peace dialogue offer to the new government in June as a protest over a U.S. drone strike, have increased attacks and killed nearly 400 people since the Sharif government took over.
The drone strike killed the Taliban deputy chief Wali-ur-Rehamn Mehsud and the Taliban resorted to revenge attacks but unfortunately the revenge attacks were against their brother Pakistanis and not against the U.S.
Sharif reiterated that he is still open to a dialogue with the Taliban to find a solution to the problem of violent extremism.
"I am going even a step further to hold dialogues with those who have unfortunately adopted extremism. We have more than one option to deal with terrorists; but wisdom and mind-set demand such a way out as to avoid further loss of innocent lives," he said.
Despite Sharif's offer, the Taliban militants have failed to show any seriousness in coming to the negotiating table. They attached conditions to their offer to talk to the government that they made in February. They had also refused to stop attacks before the talks.
The prime minister kept the dialogue option open in his first address to the nation to give peace a chance before any military offensive. But the Taliban have not responded to the offer.
However when the country's Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan made a similar offer to the Taliban early this month, the Taliban quickly responded by saying that it is prepared for a big war against the government, in effect ditching the peace option.
The majority of Pakistanis want a decisive action against the Taliban, whether it is through dialogue or a major military operation.
Aside from claiming thousands of lives, the country's economy continues to suffer because of the insurgency.
"The government will have to come up with a clear option as the policy of 'wait and see' has not change the situation and the people and the country continue to suffer," one analyst said.
He said the time to wage an all-out war is now since the Taliban are getting weaker and are confined to the North Waziristan tribal region, which is also the focus of the U.S. drone strikes.
Pakistani security forces have already cleared most of the tribal regions of militants and North Waziristan could also be cleared if a major offensive is launched, the analyst said.