I Opyne

Negotiating Season

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The wait for “change” is ruining post election euphoria for many. Some await a Naya Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) while others yearn for a Roshan Pakistan.

While it is certainly too early for bullet trains to be zooming through rural Punjab or for corruption to be eliminated from KP, but one thing has changed for sure; we Pakistanis have agreed that the war against terror is “not our war”. 

In retrospect, perhaps Benazir Bhutto should have paid heed to the warnings of TTP and Bashir Bilour probably should not have made such a huge deal about victims of terror. Because as per our newfound national wisdom, the sacrifice of these two and many others like them was in vain. The solution to terrorism lies not in standing up to terror, but instead in negotiating with terrorists.

To support this point, TTP is often compared to groups like the IRA. The argument is that if the knowledgeable Gora sahib can negotiate with the IRA, then why can’t Pakistan do the same with TTP? 

But then, is the mere use of terror enough of a reason to make these comparisons? Terrorism is a mean to enforce agendas; and if it isn’t obvious already, TTP’s agenda seems to be “a bit” different.

Unlike most terrorist groups, TTP does not have local demands. Instead they want changes at the national level.  And their demands are such that should be beyond negotiation for any sovereign nation. 

One could consider negotiations if they were demanding a repeal of FCR for instance, or a higher allocation of resources for FATA. But, they want none of that; instead they want a Naya Pakistan of their own, one that meets their standards of Islam. A Pakistan where there is a ban on polio vaccination and modern education, where justice is dispensed in public through whips and axes, where Muharram processions are banned and shrines are bulldozed, and where no one has the right to vote. I might be wrong but Great Britain would have been less prone to negotiations if the IRA wanted something similar.

However, Pakistan’s consensus is on negotiations and one has to respect that. But then negotiations are about concessions, and there is nothing wrong in giving those as long as equal importance is given to the lives, health and future of all Pakistanis. 

If a ban on polio vaccination sounds ridiculous for Raiwind in Lahore, then it should also be unacceptable for Wana in Waziristan. If a ban on female education sounds outrageous for Bani Gala in Islamabad then it should invoke the same response if proposed for Mingora in Swat. The freedoms of FATA and KP should be considered as valuable as those of Islamabad and Punjab.

This is not an unfounded fear, because Malala’s Swat was handed over to the Taliban by the previous government. It was one of their very few decisions for which they had complete support from all major political parties. 

If we assume equality among Pakistanis, then probably the most that we have to offer is an amnesty. But sadly, that is one thing that the TTP is not even asking for. So what recourse do the new Islamabad and new Peshawar have in mind if the TTP does not agree?

It wasn’t long ago that the Chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek I Insaaf lambasted Sufi Muhammad for not keeping his side of the bargain in Swat. But then he also opposed the Swat operation based on his irresolute belief that war is not a solution to anything. 

When one says that there is no war-based solution to this problem, then what exactly does that mean? If the state of Pakistan does not have the recourse of force to assert itself, then does it mean that it is futile to have a standing army and police?

It is very common to criticize the previous Government for failing to provide security, despite using military force. But then why stop at that? Why not also recognize the fact that the Government’s failure in controlling terror is in effect a failure of its implementing arms i.e. our military and security agencies. 

Is it that unfathomable to consider that our war efforts might have been below par? That the reason for failure might not be inevitability but a sub standard performance?

Osama’s presence near Kakul speaks volumes about the efficiency with which this war is being fought, and the meekness of the Abbotabad Commission report simply highlights the difficulties in any oversight of those who are responsible. 

Scrutiny of our security agencies and military is essential in improving our war efforts. But for that our parliament has to be united on this issue. Differences arise when instead of viewing TTP’s bombings as intelligence failures they are presented as a necessary outcome of fighting “someone else’s war”. If it is someone else’s war, then why should we even be bothered about fighting it more efficiently?

For the last 5 years, PML-N and PTI have gained massive political mileage by claiming “negotiations” to be the only solution for the Taliban problem. By declaring the sacrifice of thousands of Pakistanis to be for “someone else’s war”, they have effectively hampered a consensus that should have been a natural outcome of this continuous massacre. 

Their efforts paid off and Pakistan voted for negotiations as a solution to the TTP menace. One would expect these two parties to be raring to go for negotiations now that they are in Government. But ever since taking charge both parties seem to have changed their tune. Leaders of PML-N are now hinting at the use of “other options” besides negotiations, an epiphany that did not dawn upon them during the last 5 years of carnage. While the Chairman of PTI, a self-proclaimed expert on FATA, is suddenly more keen on highlighting the criminal side of TTP.

The time has come for that instant peace promised by PML-N and PTI. If they can deliver peace through negotiations without offering any scapegoats, then hats off to them, their naysayers would be proven wrong. But if they decide to opt for a military solution, then before going down that road they need to apologize to this nation for all the confusion and denial they have spread, an effort for which the TTP should thank them.

Published in The News on the 17th of July, 2013

Written by Imran Khan

July 17, 2013 at 6:48 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

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