As the PML-N celebrates Pakistan’s reaffirmed ‘iron friendship’ with China, it is also warning about the potential rusting of this friendship thanks to some nagging entities of the provincial variety.
Ahsan Iqbal’s advice to the ANP is to not politicise the issue of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as it is important for the future of Pakistan, and, as an added benefit, is also giving insomnia to Pakistan’s enemies. Thus to be recognised as a patriotic well-wisher of Pakistan, one has to say it out loud that the benefits from the CPEC are to be shared by all of Pakistan – for a better future, that is.
Fair point, the future is important, but then should it be that convenient to forget the past and its regional distribution of miseries? The world is often reminded that Pakistan is the ‘frontline state’ in the war against terror, but similar reminders about the ‘frontline region’ within Pakistan are rarely mentioned.
Be it bombings, beheadings, kidnappings, amputations or whatever variable that can measure the cost of the war on terror, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata have paid far more than the rest of the country combined. And I pray that Punjab or for that matter any other place never ever pay the price that has been paid by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata.
But good wishes for the future do not change the past. And a past that has been stained with the blood of thousands should not be that easy to forget. The costs paid by KP and Fata were a result of Pakistan’s jihad experiments, which have now been owned by retired generals Musharaf and Durrani. It is understandable that the PML-N government is helpless in bringing the planners of these policies to justice, but it would be completely shameful if it also ignores the plight of the victims of these policies.
To quote Khwaja Asif ‘O koi sharm karo, koi haya karo’. The state of Pakistan owes a lot to the people of KP and Fata for what it has unleashed upon them in the name of ‘strategic interests’, and ensuring the revival of their economy is the very least that Islamabad can do as penance.
To give Ahsan Iqbal credit, he does assure everyone that a route through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be operational. But then, should verbal assurances backed by a line on a map be enough proof for that? Why is it that out of the 21 projects earmarked for the CPEC in PSDP of 2014-15, not even one is in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa?
Similarly, in the recent deals with China, the only funds destined for the CPEC in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are for the dry port at Havelian. But that dry port is also essential for the eastern route, and besides that nothing else is being earmarked for the western route that goes through KP. Is the western route in such good shape that no investment in infrastructure is needed for it? Furthermore, China’s state television CCTV is also reporting only one route which passes through Punjab, and makes no mention of the PML-N’s promised route for the people of KP and Fata.
The steadily increasing outward migration from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata is a clear indicator that the economy of this region is failing its people. If patriotism means safeguarding the best interest of Pakistan, then the need is to prioritise the economic revival of this region, rather than lash out at those who are highlighting this need. There is no competition between Punjab and KP when it comes to the level of road infrastructure as well as security. Therefore it is very likely that even if both the routes are open, the eastern route might be the obvious choice.
An Islamabad with no provincial biases would have prioritised the plight and desperation of the Pakistanis of KP and Fata over everything else. It would have seized this opportunity to sell the western route to the Chinese as the only route, and also ensured that all objections to that route are taken care of. But it has completely failed in doing so and there is no evidence of the PML-N even trying for that.
This issue of the CPEC has been taken up by a number of political parties now, but at the core of this resistance is a group of Pashtun nationalists. This is mostly the same group that recently raised the issue of mistreatment of the IDPs. Before that they were speaking out against the ‘good’ Taliban, and a long time back the antecedents of this group were warning about the use of jihadis as a tool of foreign policy.
Most, if not all, of their demands have been received with either indifference or suspicion at the national level. And resultantly, since much of their protests have been in vain, this latest one on the CPEC is likely to suffer the same fate. To many, the irrelevance of these ‘provincial’ voices is necessary for strengthening this federation. But this view ignores the fact that these Pakistani Pakhtun nationalists make their claim for rights as Pakistani citizens. They do not reject the state of Pakistan, and make their demands through constitutional means.
The increasing irrelevance of Pakistani Pakhtun nationalists in the national discourse is coupled with their growing irrelevance in their own constituencies as well. It is becoming difficult for parties such as ANP and PkMAP to sell the idea that Pakhtuns can get their rights by using constitutional means within this federation.
Considering that the underlying problems still persist, it is quite possible that the vacuum left by these parties could be filled with Pakhtun nationalism of the separatist kind. We are currently witnessing the consequences of the irrelevance of Pakistani Baloch nationalists. Let’s not repeat the same mistakes with the Pakhtuns as well.
Spare a thought for Afshan Ahmed, a 24 year old teacher who stood up to the killers at Army Public School (APS) to defend her students. They responded by dousing her in petrol and setting her alight. But even as this brave woman was being burnt alive she still urged her students to run for their lives.
Also spare a thought for the six killers who carried out this massacre; Umar, Zubair, Yousaf, Ahmadullah, Saifullah and Abu Zar. Of these, three seem to be of the same age as many of their victims and the other three were not much older. Spare a thought for the horrors that these kids must have gone through, to be able to have so much hate in them that they could set someone on fire and watch her get burnt alive. Spare a thought for their mothers as well, whose ordeal must have begun long before the 16th of December.
It would be unfair not to count the six killers among the 145 dead victims at APS, as they all represent a recurring strategic cost that we have been paying to safeguard our “strategic interests”. Whatever this strategic interest may be, but so far it has consumed the lives of tens of thousands of Pakistanis to remain intact. Whether it was the strategic depth of the 80s or the more recent good-Taliban-bad-Taliban binary, these policy positions have provided the enabling environment which has brought us to this juncture, where even going to school has become an act of bravery.
However, there is hope, especially in the way our nation has come together in the wake of the APS massacre. But just hanging terrorists is not enough. It should be obvious that suicide bombers can’t be deterred by death. These bombers are “manufactured” with the fear of death taken out of them, the only way to stop them is to stop manufacturing them in the first place. As long as their “good” manufacturing factories factor into our strategic priorities we will have more and more of these strategic-assets-gone-wild. Lest one forgets, Naik Muhammad, Baitullah, and Hakeemullah have all been taken out in the most brutal of fashions, yet it did not stop Fazlullah from ordering this recent massacre.
The solution to it all has to be operation Zarb-i-Azb. This operation is different from its predecessors as it explicitly aims to eliminate the “bad” as well as “good” terrorists. It also has the advantage of being owned by the “Not our War” group of political parties; PML-N, PTI and JI might have won the elections by tying Taliban terrorism to U.S. drone strikes, but ever since coming into power these parties have completely capitulated on their earlier stance. This fact obviates the need for rooting out “Taliban apologists”, as Zarb-i-Azb has the necessary political consensus behind it. The need now is to ensure that it delivers on its goals. So far, it has been lacking in a few crucial areas.
To begin with, Zarb-i-Azb needs to be seen as not only an effort to stop terror attacks in “Pakistan-proper”, but also one to liberate the people of FATA from the Taliban. The last thing that we want is to alienate the people of FATA in the process, but by using F-16s to bomb civilian areas we might be doing exactly that. The US could afford to be hated in both Iraq and Afghanistan as they had to leave those countries, we on the other hand don’t have that luxury as this is our country and these are our people.
FATA IDPs need to feel that they are taking refuge within their own country. Security hysteria about Taliban infiltration needs to be qualified with a realization that we had left these people at the mercy of the Taliban for more than a decade. They are not coming out in droves because they want to live in camps in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, it is because our “strategic” policies have blown in our faces and here too this poor lot is bearing the brunt of the fallout. Implicit as well as explicit official bans on the movement of FATA IDPs need to be removed as they violate the basic rights of these Pakistanis. Denying them these rights might have far reaching consequences for the unity of this federation. The last thing that we want is to legitimize another resistance while we are eliminating the Taliban.
Given our history we have to prove that we have given up on the good Taliban. It is heartening to hear the Prime Minister as well as the Chief of Army staff reassure that no distinction will be made between good and bad Taliban, but their claims needs to be validated through independent media reports. Right now FATA is an information black-hole from which no independent confirmations can be made on targets, effectiveness and also collateral damage. The conspiracy theories and controversies surrounding Zarb-i-Azb can be put to rest if ISPR ceases to be the sole source of information about the operation.
Finally, we need to realize that by the time a suicide attacker reaches his targets it is already too late. Therefore, intelligence failures as well as a lack of coordination between security agencies need to be addressed more effectively. With more than 50,000 lost due to terrorism, one should have seen at least one resignation (forced or otherwise) from some of the officials of our numerous intelligence agencies, but that has not happened. Rather than holding landlords and naan-bais accountable for intelligence failures, Chaudhry Nisar should focus on those who have the official mandate for providing intelligence.
Initiating Zarb-i-Azb shouldn’t be an end in itself, the onus is now upon the supporters of Zarb-i-Azb to see that it succeeds. While the sacrifice of our security personnel must be honored and celebrated, there is a need for accountability and transparency around this initiative as well. We owe it to the memory of Afshan and thousands of other martyrs to finally put an end to this madness, political expediency shouldn’t get in the way of that.
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi is one of those people who gets respect from both his supporters as well as opponents, and deservedly so. These days, when Islam is being associated with beheadings and bomb blasts, it is because of scholars like Dr. Javed Ghamidi that one cannot do a negative generalization about Islamic teachings.
However, while saving Islam from negative generalizations, Dr. Ghamidi himself has resorted to generalizations about tribal Pashtuns, that are as racist and as unreasonable as some of those done about Muslims.
In his show, “Ghamidi kay Saath“, aired on Sama TV on 21st of February, Dr. Ghamidi was asked why the Taliban behead their opponents.
In his response, Mr. Ghamidi points out two main reasons,
1- Wrong interpretation of Islamic injunctions
2- Tribal norms and upbringing
While absolving Islamic injunctions for being wrongly interpreted, Ghamidi sahib puts the rest of the blame upon tribal norms and culture. Not even considering the possibility that by beheading prisoners, the Taliban might not only be violating Islamic norms of conduct but also tribal ones.
To elaborate his point, Mr. Ghamidi tells the non-tribal host of the program that while the two of them might not even consider slaughtering a chicken, thanks to a non-tribal “parwarish aur tarbiat” (upbringing), in tribal society however, even a six year old qabaili (tribal) child would have no qualms about slaughtering a grown up man.
As per Dr. Ghamidi, gore and violence comes naturally to Pashtun tribals as these are “mamooli batain” (normal things) for this lot. And it didn’t stop at that, as a caller declared all tribal Pashtuns to be mercenaries who have been historically up for grabs for the highest bidder. Dr. Ghamidi’s response to this racist and ignorant assertion was at best confusing.
Generalizations such as these should come across as shocking in any civilized society, but I guess Pakistani society by and large has not evolved to a point where individuals are judged according to their actions rather than their domicile certificates. Pick up any cellphone in Pakistan and it is likely to have an SMSed joke about Pashtun stupidity that has resulted in some outlandish behavior, be it sexual or violent. Leveraging this readily believable understanding about Pashtuns, many scholars, anchors, as well as politicians have gotten away with blatantly racist statements, as they rarely get called out for it.
But then generalization based on ethnicity have never stood up to rational scrutiny, whether they are done against Punjabis, Urdu-Speakers, Arabs or any other ethnicity. Like it or not, but there is no inferiority or superiority gene in anyone’s DNA, the second world war should have taught us that. People from a similar cultural background can have completely different outlooks towards life; urban Punjab for instance claims the Honorable Chief Justice Javed Iqbal, and also the serial killer Javed Iqbal.
Dr. Ghamidi’s assertion lacks any evidence to support his claim about this inherently violent behavior among Pashtun tribals, as he merely quotes theories about tribals in general and anecdotes about Pashtun tribals in particular that are dated back to the Mujahideen of the 80s.
However, it should be known that the history of FATA goes beyond the 1980s. One should consider why tribal FATA boasts bigger Sikh communities than non-tribal Western Punjab? What exactly were six-year-old Afridis and Orakazais up to in 1947, when Sikhs were getting lynched in their homes in Sheikhupura, Lyallpur and Gujranwala?
If 6-year-old children are okay with beheading grown up men in the name of Islam, then for sure the same could be done in the name of settling tribal feuds as well. I was wondering if Dr. Ghamidi or anyone else for that matter could come up with instances where Pashtun tribes had made mounds out of the heads of their rivals? There for sure must be some evidence out there to have convinced Dr. Ghamidi to be so certain in associating violence with tribal upbringing? If running feuds is enough of a reason, then how different are the inter-generational feuds in Waziristan from those in Gujranwala?
Interestingly, there are tribal lashkars fighting against the Taliban, but am yet to hear of a beheading that was carried out by anti Taliban tribals. If it was the normal thing to do among tribals, and the fact that Taliban are beheading members of these very lashkars, then how come these anti Taliban tribals are not resorting to beheadings as well?
On the other hand, was Ilyas Kashmiri also a product of qabaili upbringing that he was able to bring back severed heads of Indian soldiers? Can Punjabi Taliban also claim domiciles of FATA? If not then what exactly explains their unquenchable thirst for Shia blood?
It is a valid question to ask why the Taliban are overwhelmingly Pashtun, but then it is also wrong to ignore the “strategic” reasons behind it. FATA has served as a parking lot for Pakistan’s “strategic assets”: an area assigned to the production of cannon fodder to fight our proxy wars.
Billions of dollars have been funneled into FATA to not only turn civilians into soldiers but also to numb down the tribal spirit in order to make way for the “ummah”. As a result, Taliban Mehsuds have teamed up with Taliban Uzbeks to kill and oppress non-Taliban Mehsuds; an act which is sacrilegious under tribal norms, but is according to Taliban shariah. Taliban rule in FATA comes at the expense of the tribal way of life, and in no way compliments it.
Taliban norms of fighting are comparable to those of Jihadis stretching from Somalia to Syria and all the way to Chechnya, as they are all linked through a common interpretation of Islam. These norms are as shocking to the feuding families of Waziristan as they would be to the feuding families of Gujranwala.
As for the legendary “warrior” abilities of the “violent” tribal Pashtuns, one only has to visit any IDP camp to see how “comfortable” these people are with wars. In their thousands, grown up Pashtun men have fled for safety and are cuing up for food and water just like war weary men would in any other part of the world. That warrior spirit and that fabled thirst for revenge, which is so clearly visible from the comforts of drawing rooms and TV studios, is certainly missing in these camps.
The majority of Taliban might be tribal Pashtuns, but a majority of tribal Pashtuns are NOT Taliban. Anyone and everyone, who resorts to these racist generalizations about Pashtun tribals need to prove it with evidence.
They say success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. That seems to be the case for the ‘muzakraat’ solution that had been pushed so persistently by almost all political parties who are currently in power.
Whether it was the PML-N, PTI, JI or JUI-F, they until recently claimed that the Taliban were just waiting for an assurance that we are not fighting “someone else’s war”, an assurance that the previous “corrupt” government was unwilling to give.
But ever since these parties have come into power, they have resorted to U-turns that are somewhat proportional to their ability of implementing the much-touted muzakraat solution. Imran Khan has downgraded ‘muzakraat’ from being an ‘only’ solution to one that should at least be tried before military action.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who always insisted that the Taliban are “our people”, is now suddenly counting the number of attacks that his family and party have suffered at the hands of the same ‘our people’. But most importantly, Mian Nawaz Sharif, the one who assured everyone about the wisdom behind muzakraat, is now increasingly growing impatient with the carnage that is going on under his watch.
But it is the same PML-N, which, back in October 2012, in the aftermath of the attack on Malala Yousafzai, opposed the PPP’s bid for launching an operation in Waziristan. Yet, 16 months and 7,000 dead Pakistanis later, the PML-N has ordered PAF to bomb out militant hideouts in Waziristan.
So what changed exactly? Was the December 2012 explosion that killed nine in the Qissa Khawani Bazaar any different from the one that killed 10 in the same Qissa Khawani in September 2013? Was the TTP’s video of shooting 21 handcuffed and blindfolded Pakistani soldiers in December 2012 any less gruesome than that of the 23 beheaded ones in February 2014?
The only thing that has changed is that the PPP has been replaced by the PML-N, a party that claimed that it could bring peace without firing any bullets. But now when it’s time to finally fulfil his election promise, Mian Sahib is going back to a solution that he opposed before we had lost 7,000 precious lives.
But is just unleashing the army upon Waziristan going to solve everything?
To begin with, our counter insurgency efforts leave a lot to be desired, the bulldozed town of Loi Sum in Bajaur and the use of F-16s to bomb civilian areas are testament to that. Even the Indian army refrains from air strikes in Kashmir, an option that seems to be very convenient for our army when it comes to Fata.
But more importantly, the essential prerequisite for fighting this war is to realise that the Taliban are holding Waziristanis as hostages, and any war aimed at liberating these hostages should not simply assume them to be necessary collateral damage. However, to arrive at that aim, we have to first do away with an assumption that is seemingly built into our definition of ‘national interest’, which is to assume the people of Fata to be lesser Pakistanis of the dispensable kind.
This is not an emotional statement, the proof of this lies in the dichotomy between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban. It is fairly obvious that the ‘bad’ Taliban are those who dare to impose or inflict upon Pakistan, what the ‘good’ Taliban have already imposed or inflicted upon Waziristan. The only thing that differentiates the good Taliban from the bad ones is the domiciles of their Pakistani victims.
And this hypocrisy does not stop at the strategic level, it is also glaringly obvious in our national debate on this issue. Our national indignation was so palpable over the audacity of the bad Taliban to even contemplate the notion of imposing their Shariah on us, but then at the same time we have been completely indifferent towards the fact that the good Taliban have already subjected ordinary Waziristanis to that same brand of Shariah.
We get horrified at the prospect of the bad Taliban banning polio vaccinations for our children, but then don’t even consider it worth our time to recognise the risks faced by Waziristani children whose access to polio drops have already been blocked by the good Taliban.
An operation into Waziristan shouldn’t be an exercise to make an example out of the bad Taliban so that the good ones stick to their ‘good’ behaviour. Good Taliban, by virtue of their identity as Taliban, are bad for Pakistanis who are living under their rule. That alone should be enough of a reason for rescuing these Pakistanis. But for that we need to accept Waziristanis as Pakistanis, both in strategy as well as in our national narrative on this issue.
It is high time we thought of new strategies to counter any threats from Afghanistan and India, strategies that do not require sacrifice of lesser Pakistanis to secure the heartland. No rational group of people could ever agree to this perpetually, and the people of Fata are as rational as any other group in Pakistan. If we are to survive as a federation then the need is to consider the Malalas of Waziristan to be as valuable as the Malalas of Rawalpindi and then do our strategic thinking.
Waziristan is in need of rescuing, but more than the Taliban it needs to be rescued from the policies that have relegated it to an area where we park our strategic assets and produce cannon fodder for our proxy wars.
Unless we do away with that strategy, this upcoming harvest of the bad Taliban will only provide a temporary relief, because as long as we are sowing and nurturing good Taliban, we will be reaping these bad ones as well, the ones that forget the difference between Kabul and Rawalpindi.
During the run-up to Election 2013, the phrase ‘baba ta easy load ka’ (send baba some easy load) had become the bane of the ANP’s existence. Talk about the 800 martyrs of ANP and the response would be: “yes, but baba ta easy load ka”. Mention the party’s defiance against the TTP and the response would be: “true, but baba ta easy load ka”.
The ANP’s fact-finding mission, which was tasked with investigating the reason for the party’s electoral defeat, declared ‘baba’ – Azam Khan Hoti – as one of the main culprits.
In response Hoti came out lashing at the ANP’s top leadership, as he alleged that Asfandyar Khan received a whooping $350 million bribe from the US.
It would have been better for Hoti Sahib had he stopped there and spoken of some secret Swiss accounts. But instead he used a very morbid yet poetic analogy to suggest that the blood of the ANP’s 800 martyrs is being used as oil in the lamps of Asfandyar’s hotels in Malaysia and palaces in Dubai.
While the analogy was good enough to be played repeatedly on all news channels, it also increased the burden of proof for Hoti. He is absolutely right in saying that such transfers of money don’t come with receipts. But then he must also know that property ownership does not come without title deeds. If there are hotels and palaces, then they must have names and addresses.
These allegations have been around for a while now, and Hoti could have finally substantiated these with evidence. But instead, he simply repeated what has already been said. The credibility of these allegations then can be judged from the fact that even a former close confidant of Asfandyar Khan does not have any evidence to prove them.
Given this fact, it is surprising to see the level of acceptance these allegations are finding among workers of the ANP’s opposition parties. It is very likely that if ‘Easy Load’ baba decided to join any of their parties he would face stiff opposition from these same workers – because of his lack of credibility.
An amount of $350 million is not given for nothing. The ANP would have been worth such a price tag had its stance on the war on terror been contrary to that of the United States. It would have made sense to buy the ANP had it been screaming about blocking Nato supply routes, or calling the war on terror to be ‘someone else’s war’ or referring to the Taliban as ‘our people’.
But it did none of that, and that is because the ANP’s war against this madness started way before 9/11. At a time when the Haqqani network was gracing the lawns of the White House, and John Rambo was shooting down Russian helicopters with arrows. For the ANP this is an existential war, and not an adventure in a far-off land that comes with a cut-and-run option. It is the US that woke up to this threat in 2001. Bacha Khan and Wali Khan had forewarned about these dangers two decades before that, when the US was nurturing these very monsters.
If the ANP was opposing these extremists when the US was supporting them, then why would the ANP change its stance just because the US had a change of heart? It was the ANP’s war way before it became the United States’ war.
However, if one has to look for some incumbency induced pro-US mood swings then one shouldn’t look beyond the PML-N, the PTI and the Jamaat-e-Islami.
The ‘pro-negotiations’ Nawaz Sharif is now tilting heavily towards ‘other options’, given the 779 deaths since he took office. Amazingly, it is an epiphany that did not dawn upon him while Pakistan was raking up 40,000 deaths during the last ten years.
The principled PTI, the one that was convinced about foreign aid being a curse for Pakistan, is now building a Naya Pakhtunkhwa with funds from donors belonging to the Nato alliance.
The feisty Jamaat-e-Islami, the one that used to dharna-block Nato supply routes, had until recently switched to blocking any resolution that asked for banning Nato supplies from passing through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
All one has to do is to wear a conspiracy-laden fez and ask why these hawks of five months ago are now suddenly cooing like pigeons? For starters one could consider the proximity of US embassy to both the PM House as well as Bani Gala.
The plot would thicken by also pondering upon those post-victory trips to the west; Nawaz Sharif meeting Obama, Imran Khan hobnobbing with British royalty and Sirajul Haq roaming around Europe. And with this overwhelming evidence about contacts with the CIA and the MI5, all one has to do is to throw in a neat little figure of $350 million per party and it should all start making ‘sense’.
If this sounds preposterous then Azam Khan’s claims should sound twice as crazy. The U-turns of the PML-N, PTI and JI can be explained in the context of their empty election promises; peace in 90 days, breaking the IMF kashkol, saying no to foreign aid, negotiations the ‘only’ solution etc. With the votes securely bagged these parties are now gradually switching to the policies of the last five years, especially on the war on terror.
It is yet to be seen whether the chest thumping over Hakeemullah’s death is just playing to the galleries or something more. But one thing is for sure: by considering options other than negotiations these parties have vindicated the stance of the ANP and the PPP, a stance that included the Swat agreement as well as a block on Nato supplies. It is time to accept that maybe, just maybe, negotiations never were an option – a lesson we should have learnt from the failure of the Swat agreement and many others – and that this has always been our own war and not someone else’s.
And once that realisation sinks in, then it is easy to see that foreign money is not needed as an incentive to fight one’s own war. Because when the threat is to one’s existence and there is no option of flight, then the only option left is to fight.
By the morning of May 12th, PTI’s tsunami had officially swept through Peshawar valley. This was a victory that was mostly at the expense of the ANP, thus prompting many to declare it to be a spent force, the strongest proof of which was the routing of Ghulam Ahmad Bilour on NA-1 and that too with a mammoth margin of 66 thousand votes. But yet, just two months later, Ghulam Bilour has reclaimed his seat.
So what happened exactly?
One explanation paints the PTI as being alone against an alliance of ANP, PPP, and JUI-F and thus overwhelmed by its experienced opposition. But then that is factually incorrect as PTI had its own set of allies, including the Jamat I Islami (JI) and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP). Furthermore, the local leadership of PML-N had also announced its support for PTI. The strength of these two alliances can be assessed from their performance during the recent general elections. On May 11th, PPP and JUI-F had a total of 11,859 votes while JI, QWP and PML-N had 12,977 votes for NA-1. Based on these numbers, PTI actually had a stronger rather than a weaker electoral alliance when compared with ANP.
The selection of Gul Bacha is another reason cited for PTI’s defeat, as he was a “non-entity”. But then just two months ago another non-entity by the name of Javed Nasim defeated Haroon Bilour on PK-3. It should be mentioned here that this is the constituency of Bashir Bilour Shaheed, one that he managed to maintain even during MMA’s whitewash of 2002. But yet despite Bashir Bilour’s martyrdom, PK-3 preferred a non-entity to his son, perhaps because the non-entity came with the name of PTI; a name that generated trust and hope.
In my opinion PTI’s defeat in NA-1 is a weakening of its ability to generate trust. It was this particular ability that allowed PTI to sweep Peshawar valley with mere non-entities. But now that trust is being squandered because of the immature behavior of its leadership and more importantly through the inability of KP government to deliver on its promises.
The immaturity of PTI’s leadership was evident in the way it dealt with Samad Mursalin. This is the same Samad Mursalin who ran from PF-2 (now PK-2, a sub constituency of NA-1) on a PTI ticket in 1997. He was the face of PTI in Peshawar city back in the 90s. One would expect that considering Samad’s long time association, Imran Khan himself would try to defuse the situation, by convincing Samad in person.
However, it appears that Imran Khan was actually avoiding Samad, and that too in the most ridiculous of manners. Apparently when Samad tried meeting with Imran Khan at the CM house Peshawar, he was tricked into going into a waiting room and then was locked inside along with his workers. They were allowed to leave only after Imran Khan had left the premises. Samad’s angry press conference after this incident was reported in the national as well as local press.
Subsequently, the provincial leadership made a few half-hearted attempts, but then publicly announced the cancellation of Samad’s membership right before election. And just for extra measure called him a “back stabber” in an official statement. Samad’s reaction to this childish behavior needs to be seen as more of a response to an insult rather than a breach of loyalty.
But would a mere ticket allocation explain this defeat? Many claim an unofficial victory for PTI by saying that the sum total of Samad’s and Gul Bacha’s votes is more than that of the ANP. However, this claim is factually incorrect, as according to ECP; Samad received a total of 1,707 votes, while Gul Bacha received 28,911. Their total of 30,681 votes is still less than that of ANP at 34,386 votes. So even if there were no splits, PTI still would have either lost this seat or managed a very close win.
Surely this massive reduction of 66,000 votes and that too within a span of two months cant only be associated with the selection of a wrong candidate. A constituency of 320,000 registered voters must have had other issues that affected its voting decision.
In my opinion this is where PTI’s performance comes into play, and 83 days is more than enough of a time to assess promises that were made to be fulfilled within 90 days. It is very clear that PTI has been unable to meet the standards of governance and conduct which it demanded of previous Government and which it promised to its voters.
But besides not being able to meet its own set standards, PTI is also struggling to match up with its predecessors. This is especially true when it comes to the issue of terrorism, an issue that is central to the terror ridden constituency of NA-1, whose Qissa Khawani bazar has been a preferred target of the Taliban.
It is no coincidence that after the arrival of PTI’s government, there has been a sudden increase in Taliban’s extortion activities in Peshawar. This has mainly affected the business community a substantial proportion of which is based in the inner city, an area that falls under NA-1.
The Government’s response has largely been ineffective as there are reports of a demoralized police force, with some officials blaming the PTI government for a lack of resolve in fighting the TTP. This lack is evident in the inability of PTI’s government to even condemn the Taliban.
On talk shows it has become a joke to get an unconditional condemnation of the TTP from KP’s ministers, with both opposition leaders as well as anchors daring PTI leaders to do so. Shaukat Yousafzai, on Nasim Zehra’s show, went to the extent of saying that he had not heard about TTP’s threats to the ANP, PPP and MQM and therefore will not condemn them.
While such wisdom buys safety for PTI’s leadership, it is also costing them the trust of the people who came out in droves to vote for PTI. It is very likely that the tsunami that began in Peshawar valley could very well end here as well and from the looks of it, the process for that might have already started.