Tsunami in Waziristan
Tsunamis are known for the height of their waves, and Pakistan Tehreek I Insaaf (PTI)’s tsunami would probably register its tallest wave yet if it hits the mountains of Waziristan next month. Doing a jalsa inside the Taliban stronghold of Waziristan would be no small achievement, given Taliban disapproval of electoral politics and their habit of expressing disapproval through violence.
One would expect the Tehreek I Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to have a soft corner for PTI, given that PTI has always opposed any military action against the TTP. PTI believes Talibanization in Pakistan to be a direct consequence of Pakistan’s support for the US led War on Terror (WoT). While it condemns Taliban attacks within Pakistan, it regards them as a response to the WoT. To quote party Chairman Imran Khan, terrorism as epitomized by the Taliban is “a reaction to drone strikes and military operations; suicide bombings are a tool of the weak used to attack oppressors”.
But surprisingly in this case, the “weak” consider Mr. Khan to be part of the “oppressors” as well. Back in 2011 TTP’s spokesperson Mr. Ehsanullah Ehsan declared Mr. Khan a “Ghulam” (slave) of the West. More recently the TTP has upped the ante by declaring Mr. Khan, an “infidel” because of the latter’s audacity to call himself a “liberal”. Presently, the TTP is deliberating upon whether to allow Mr. Khan’s tsunami into Waziristan, but, if one is to go by TTP’s track record in dealing with infidels, then Mr. Khan could be as legitimate a target as were many others who were killed for the crimes of being liberal, Shia, infidel etc.
These recent events have highlighted some very interesting anomalies in PTI’s stance vis a vis the TTP. To begin with, it lays bare the naiveté in PTI’s overly simplistic analysis of the Taliban threat. For almost a decade now Imran Khan has been citing Pakistan’s support for the WoT as the main reason behind the Taliban phenomenon. With his anti drone dharnas he represents that counterfactual policy position, which he thinks is the only solution to the Taliban problem. But despite his anti WoT rhetoric the Taliban have labeled him a “slave of the West” (ironically the same epitaph that Mr. Khan often bestows upon President Zardari). It should be obvious that there is much more on the Taliban’s agenda, than the mere departure of US troops from Afghanistan.
But even more interesting is Imran Khan’s response to the TTP, which is eerily similar to that of ANP leadership when they are faced with such threats. While there is nothing wrong in invoking the name of Allah and putting on a fearless posture, but for Mr. Khan this is a contradiction of his belief to reject any notion of confrontation with the Taliban. He has always proposed negotiations with TTP to avoid unnecessary deaths and had recently even offered his own services as a mediator between the GoP and Taliban. But surprisingly with the lives of his own party workers at stake, Mr. Khan seems in no mood to negotiate with the Taliban, who have declared his belief in democracy to be un-Islamic and thus the main source of contention. One would expect the PTI to explain its vision of an “Islamic Welfare State” to the TTP and address this grievance of theirs, but so far there has been no indication of that.
So instead of negotiating a safe entry, the PTI would be relying on its Waziristan chapter for the security of the tsunami. Mr. Khan believes that “every man in the tribal area is a warrior, and carries a gun”, a belief that stands challenged by the thousands of IDPs from Waziristan who were reluctant to go back home because of threats from the TTP. But nevertheless even if one believes this romanticized notion, then by galvanizing this heavily armed “peace caravan” the PTI is in fact planning to raise an armed lashkar to counter potential threats from the TTP.
This might be the first time that the Chairman of PTI is differentiating between the Taliban and the people of FATA, but during the last ten years, several such lashkars of “infidels” have been formed to resist the Taliban. However, doing so has come at very high costs, as the massacre of more than 200 tribal elders across FATA stands testament to the fate of those who have dared to defy the TTP.
While Imran Khan has clearly stated that he has no desire to get himself or anyone else injured or killed, but barging into TTP controlled areas at the head of an armed procession is certainly not the way to ensure that. Interestingly, Mr. Khan’s ex wife Jemima Khan has announced the cancellation of her plans through her Twitter account, she took this decision after the Chairman of PTI told her that going to Waziristan would be “too dangerous”, a fear that he has certainly not shared with the rest of the 100,000 expected at the event. With parties such as ANP restricting their political activities under threat from the Taliban, the Chairman of PTI should also reconsider his decision as the cost of it could be measured in terms of human lives.
The time has come for the rank and file of PTI to demand a clear party position on the Taliban. If Taliban violence will continue to be directed at the vote registering “infidels” of Pakistan even after US with drawl from Afghanistan, then this present war against the Taliban is definitely our war. A war that would become increasingly difficult to fight once the TTP is free of US pressure and Pakistan is devoid of military aid. If it is our war then lets fight it as we are supposed to, rather than shy away from it by clinging on to ridiculous theories.