Rana Sanaullah, Law Minister of Punjab province and one of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's closest confidants, told The Guardian in an interview in Lahore that the time had finally come to "smash" militant safe havens.
    
Expectations are growing of a military push against Al Qaeda-linked groups operating from North Waziristan, a semi-autonomous tribal area on the Afghan border, the daily reported on Tuesday.
    
Sanaullah said a decision had been made to launch military operations but the army would be left to decide exactly what form any offensive would take.
    
He also claimed Kayani, who served as head of the powerful army for six years, "had been unwilling to tackle the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, despite persistent claims by military sources that the former army chief was frustrated by the lack of action", the report said.
    
Sanaullah said the government's new stance on militancy had to wait for the retirement of three key figures last year: former President Asif Ali Zardari, former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who "became infamous for interfering in government business", and Kayani.
    
"If Chief Justice Chaudhry was in office now, he would have struck down the PPO (Protection of Pakistan Ordinance) the next day," he said.
    
Among the PPO's provisions are secret courts, greater shoot-to-kill freedoms for police, raids without warrants and the detention of terror suspects without charge for three months.
    
But PML-N leaders, including Sanaullah, have been accused of striking secret non-aggression pacts with militant groups in the past to keep Punjab relatively secure, the report said.

(Agencies)

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