Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif urges dialogue with militants

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An injured man after an attack in Quetta. Photo: 16 August 2013Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Mr Sharif said the violence threatened the survival of the country

Pakistan's PM Nawaz Sharif has called for dialogue with militants to end the violence he says threatens the very survival of the country.

Mr Sharif said he invited "all those elements who have unfortunately adopted the path of extremism" to talk.

But he warned that the government was ready to fight militants "through full use of force" if the insurgents rejected his offer.

Mr Sharif came to power in June with negotiations a part of his agenda.

In a televised address to the nation on Monday, Mr Sharif said: "Wisdom demands that we follow a path where we minimise the loss of innocent lives".

"This policy of reconciliation is not confined just to political parties.

"I take a step forward and invite for dialogue all those elements who have unfortunately adopted the path of extremism."

Mr Sharif, who heads the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), also blamed Pakistan's security services and judiciary for failing to tackle "the militant threat".

Image source, AP
Image caption,
People across Pakistan watched the address

The prime minister also said the problem of militancy was linked to Pakistan's foreign policy; adding that the country needed to review its strained relations with Afghanistan.

Mr Sharif's speech was much more about sentiments than specific measures, the BBC's Charles Haviland in Islamabad reports.

But the prime minister does seem to be echoing recent comments by the army chief who said the fight against terrorism was Pakistan's own fight, not just something imposed on it from outside, our correspondent adds.

Earlier this month, government officials said they were preparing a comprehensive security strategy, bringing together delegates from all political parties to try to combat violent extremism.

However, the strategy has not yet been released, and no all-party meeting has been scheduled.

Pakistan has been plagued by the Taliban insurgency, and also sectarian infighting between Sunnis and Shias and a rebellion by Baloch separatists in the south-west.