Bhutto son urges Pakistan military action on Taliban

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari: "I think we have exhausted the option of talks"

The son of the assassinated former prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, has called on the country's authorities to take military action against militant groups.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said politicians must "wake up" to the threat posed by armed groups such as the Taliban.

His comments in a BBC interview come as the government holds urgent talks over how to tackle mounting violence.

Mr Bhutto, 25, said he was considering standing in elections due in 2018.

'Battlefield'

Bilawal Bhutto is under scrutiny for everything - from his fluency in the Urdu language to his very active Twitter account. He's also under constant death threat from the Taliban he blames for his mother Benazir Bhutto's death.

But in the interview, he appeared poised and confident as he took questions on everything from his suitability for politics, his party's record, to allegations of corruption against his own father, former President Asif Ali Zardari.

At a time when many have been silenced, understandably, by attacks by the Taliban and others, he bravely calls on much older politicians to fight back. Some call him naive, even reckless. But there's a sense that this young Bhutto is now moving more fully into the life he says "I didn't choose... it chose me".

He'll be challenged by a world far more dangerous and difficult than in his mother's and grandfather's time. And he'll be watched by a people desperate for change who demand more than a celebrated name. He wouldn't be drawn on the extent of his ambitions, saying simply he wants to "play some role".

Speaking exclusively to the BBC, he said Pakistan had exhausted the option of talks with militants and that military action was now needed.

"Dialogue is always an option but we have to have a position of strength," he said. "How do you talk from a position of strength? You have to beat them on the battlefield. They're fighting us.

"It's not only confined to North Waziristan. They are attacking us in Karachi... We would like to eradicate the Taliban from Pakistan."

The BBC's Lyse Doucet, who conducted the interview, says most political parties including his own had agreed to pursue talks and that launching military action would be a risky option for the government, and for Mr Bhutto.

He was speaking in the run-up to the launch of the Sindh Festival on 1 February, a cultural event in his home province regarded as his first initiative to put his own personal stamp on his engagement with Pakistan.

It comes as Pakistan's National Assembly is meeting to discuss the country's response to a series of recent militant attacks, including one on an army convoy earlier this month.

Start Quote

I want to... make sure we are a peaceful, prosperous and progressive nation that my mother dreamed of”

End Quote Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Pakistan People's Party

The assembly's session on Monday ended without decision amid differences over whether or not to talk to the Taliban, which the government is in favour of.

Mr Bhutto told the BBC he thought the assassination of his mother in 2007 would "wake the country up" - but that politicians had wasted the consensus built up by his family, partly by believing that the United States should fight the Taliban for them.

He told the BBC he wanted to take on more responsibility in his Pakistan People's Party, which was badly defeated in last year's elections after five years in power.

"I never saw myself as being in politics," he said.

"Now I think it is time for me or there is the opportunity for me to start taking on more responsibility. But I will be focused more on party politics and working with every level of the party - I don't want to parachute my self in from the top. I want to work with the grassroots, with every level of the party across the country and my aim is the 2018 election."

Benazir Bhutto, centre, former prime minister of Pakistan, comes out of Landhi jail with her son Bilawal Bhutto, left, and daughter Asifa Bhutto in 1998 Benazir Bhutto with her son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and daughter Asifa in 1998

Correspondents say the recent escalation in violence is renewing concerns about the country's strategy for dealing with militancy.

At least 13 people were killed in a suicide bombing near Pakistan's army HQ in the city of Rawalpindi on 20 January. It came a day after 20 soldiers were killed when a bomb blast struck an army convoy in the north-west.

Last week Pakistani military aircraft bombed suspected Taliban positions in North Waziristan, following a wave of attacks against security forces.

During Mr Bhutto's party's term in office, while his father was president, the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups grew in strength, despite limited military action undertaken in some parts of the north-west.

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