PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Two prominent secular ethnic Pashtun politicians in Pakistan have called on Islamabad to take decisive action to end extremist sanctuaries in the country's northwestern tribal areas.
Asfandyar Wali Khan, leader of the secular Awami National Party (ANP), said on December 31 that Pakistan has to look for ways to end the "scourge of terrorism" in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and adjoining tribal areas.
"The central government has to decide on how to move forward in the FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas]," Khan said. "We forcefully demand from the federal government to end the scourge of terrorism by whatever means it can. I will raise this issue [with the President Asif Ali Zardari] when I meet him. This is something a state can end. Political parties cannot end it."
The ANP has aggressively opposed the Taliban and its extremist allies during its five-year rule in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In retribution, the Taliban have killed hundreds party members since 2007.
Bilour Ahmad Bilour, a senior provincial minister, was the Taliban's latest victim. He was killed along with eight others
on December 22 when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest during a political gathering in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
Mahmood Khan Achakzai, the leader of Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP), said Pashtuns have become the main victims of terrorism in their own land.
He said some international extremists were provided sanctuary and given training in FATA after the September 11 attacks against the United States in 2001. And it is those same terrorists, he said, who are now responsible for the bloodshed in the region.
Addressing a gathering in Peshawar, Achakzai called on the Pakistani government to push out the "foreign" terrorists from their sanctuaries to restore peace and security across Pakistan.
"These so-called foreign guests should be forced to leave FATA," Achakzai said. "The Pakistani military should then leave FATA. The people of FATA need to be masters of FATA.
Much like the ANP, the PMAP has also strongly opposed the Taliban, who are active in the Pashtun populated regions of northwestern and southwestern Pakistan.
Islamabad says terrorist attacks in the country have killed more than 30,000 civilians and soldiers since 2001.
With additional reporting by Dawn and Geo.tv