PTI’s Taliban Solution
To get a measure of Malala’s courage one only needs to look at pictures of beheaded corpses on display in Mingora’s “Khooni Chowk”. It was no small achievement to write those diaries despite the gruesome warnings. Therefore, it was no exaggeration when Malala was awarded the title of “The Bravest Girl in the World”.
However, this title can be a bit misleading because her courage surpasses not only that of the girls of this world, but also of grown up men. Men such as the Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek I Insaaf (PTI), who confessed on TV that he refrains from criticizing the Taliban for fears of reprisals targeted at PTI.
Fear is a very human emotion and can be a valid reason for maintaining silence, but under no circumstances should it warrant the spreading of disinformation. It is a fact that when Malala was writing her diaries from Mingora and detailing the killings and destruction of schools, the chairman of PTI, from the safety of Islamabad, had declared all such news to be mere “government propaganda”. More than flowers and commiserations, what Mr. Khan owes Malala is an apology for discrediting her efforts.
But expecting such an apology would be a bit too much, because PTI’s campaign of disinformation still continues. Khan Sahib’s proposed solution to the Taliban problem is one such example.
Declaring it as the “only solution”, he presents three main steps towards peace:
Step 1: Pakistan distances itself from United States’ war on terror (WOT), and as a result Taliban lose the reason for their struggle.
Step 2: Convince the tribes of FATA that Pakistan is not fighting the WOT anymore, and thus convince the Taliban to disarm. Mr. Khan believes that 90% of the Taliban would lay their arms down at this point.
Step 3: If the remaining 10% still persist on ideological basis, then a small “chota mota” military operation could be carried out with the help of the tribes of FATA.
This strategy is based on some very flawed assumptions as Khan Sahib assumes the people of FATA to be siding with the Taliban. To back this claim he invokes history and then leaves it at that.
Historical references are important to consider but more important are modern day ones. This “Tribal-Taliban-Unity” straw man stands exposed with the existence of anti-Taliban tribal lashkars that are created through community consensus. These communities have lost centuries old tribal structures to the Taliban onslaught and have endured beheadings of their loved ones on their native soil. As a result rather then being angry with the Americans in Afghanistan, these rational Pakistanis are more perturbed by the barbarians who are unlawfully ruling their villages through fear and intimidation. Why is it that the rebellion of these entirely Pashtun anti Taliban groups does not remind Imran Khan of the indomitable spirit that resisted the British, while he is very eager to declare a motley crew including Chechens, Punjabis, Arabs, Turkmen, and Uighars as “Pashtun resistance”?
Similarly baseless is the claim that 90% of the Taliban are fighting this war because of Pakistan’s support for the WOT. PTI’s failed attempt to hold a jalsa in Waziristan proves the non-existence of this “90%”. If such an overwhelming number of Taliban agreed with PTI, then PTI would have been embraced as an ideological ally and Khan Sahib would not have been titled as “a slave of the west”.
This “slavery” of Mr. Khan is certainly not about siding with the United States in the WOT, because he has made his opposition quite clear on that front. However, this particular slavery is signified through his beardless face, his approval for female education, polio vaccination and his acceptance of many other freedoms that we Pakistanis consider our basic rights.
It is clear that Taliban’s measure of freedom from the West is for Imran Khan and the rest of Pakistan to be enslaved under Taliban rule. The people of Waziristan and Swat have tasted this and the struggle of Malala was against these exact “freedoms”. The Swat experience showed that Taliban would not settle for anything less than total control and will not desist from expanding through violent means. If the military is not needed to counter such an existential threat, then in my opinion there is no need for a military.
A very common retort to the military option is to ask what exactly have we accomplished through operations so far? But if our military has failed to deliver then that demands that its performance be reviewed, and not that Pakistanis be handed over as hostages to a band of armed thugs.
The bulldozed town of Loi Sum stands testament to the scorched earth and highhanded policies of a military that feels no restraint. The discovery of Osama in Kakul and the presence of Taliban sympathizers within our armed forces raise serious concerns about the inherent weaknesses within our military response. Before declaring the futility of military efforts, we need to consider the overwhelming evidence that indicates both incompetence and/or collusion in the war against Taliban.
If demands are to be made from the Government, then they should be to demand results from the army. If anything the memogate scandal shows that our Government needs support from all political quarters to break the grip that the security establishment has on Islamabad.
The Taliban constitute an existential threat to Pakistan and the Pakistani way of life. Despite the death of thousands of Pakistanis we still lack the resolve to fight this menace. This lack of a resolve emanates directly from the confusion that prevails about this issue. The source of this confusion lies in ridiculous theories that don’t stand up to rational scrutiny.
The price for this confusion is not being equally paid by all of Pakistan. If handing over Swat and Waziristan to buy the safety of Islamabad and Lahore is the “only solution” then it for sure is not a sustainable one, because sooner rather than later Pakistan is bound to run out of these Pashto speaking lesser Pakistanis.
An edited version was published on the 7th of Nov 2012 in The News