Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaaf is against Pakistan’s role in the war on terror. Several times, Imran has said that terrorism is directly related to our alliance with the US. His main points for opposing the war on terror are: 1) Suicide bombings are a reaction to drone strikes. 2) There was no violence from militants in the country prior to February 2004, which is when the military entered Fata. 3) The people of Fata support the Taliban because they are convinced that it is a movement led by freedom fighters. 4) The Pakistan Army ranks do not want to fight an unjust war and have been surrendering in large numbers to small groups of Taliban. 5) Peace can be restored, through dialogue, within 90 days. 6) There were only 800 al Qaeda terrorists hiding in Pakistan and 7) to appease the US and for the sake of earning some dollars, we have put our country’s security and integrity at stake.
Plainly put, Imran has got some facts on the war on terror wrong. The army entered Fata in 2001 and in South Waziristan in 2002, and not in February 2004. Dialogue with the tribes was initiated in 2002 and not in 2007. Since he is not aware of the number and kind of operations conducted by the army, therefore, Imran Khan thinks that the army is unwilling to fight the militants and has surrendered in large numbers to small groups of Taliban. Those army officers and those of other ranks, who have fought these terrorists bravely, are aware of their real agenda. Except for one incident, no army soldier has ever surrendered. Officers and men, who are practicing Muslims, know that they are fighting a just war aimed at defending this country from terrorists who want power and implementation of their brand of Islam through brute force. The figures of civilian casualties, in drones strikes, are also being exaggerated. Most of the tribal people are in favour of drones as most of the casualties are those of terrorists and the collateral damage is insignificant.
The rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, directly contributed to religious extremism in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP). In November 1994, the Afghan-Taliban captured Kandahar. The same month the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi initiated a movement for the implementation of Sharia in Malakand Division. Within no time, armed militants took control of the whole of Malakand Division. A sitting PPP MPA was shot dead. Men were forced to wear watches on their right hand and traffic was made to ply on the right hand, the left being un-Islamic. It took Frontier Corps more than a month to dislodge militants and regain control of the area.
In September 1996, the Afghan Taliban captured Kabul. Many tribal and other Pakistanis formed part of the Taliban fighting force. In 1997, a small Taliban force started operating in Orakzai Agency. In 1998, the Taliban emerged in North Waziristan Agency and by 1999 they were in control of Mirali. By 2000, the Taliban had spread to Bajaur and some other parts of Malakand Division. As early as 2000 in Peshawar, force was used by militants against cable operators to stop their operations. An organised movement was run against NGOs. A maulvi from Dir issued an edict that any NGO woman found in the area should be apprehended and taken as a wife.
In the aftermath of Nato’s invasion of Afghanistan, following 9/11, all militants belonging to al Qaeda, the IMU (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan), jihadis, sectarian outfits and other terrorists crossed over from Afghanistan and took refuge in Fata, and other parts of Pakistan. The jihadi organisations and some local tribal people provided them a support system.
The government responded in 2002. Local tribes were engaged in dialogue and persuaded to expel the foreign militants from their soil. Operations were only launched once the tribal jirgas expressed their inability to deal with the militants. From 2004 to 2009, numerous peace agreements were inked with various groups of militants. Each time these were violated; the Taliban used these deals to increase their strength and fighting potentials. The PTI can only achieve peace in 90 days if they strike a deal with the Taliban that they can rule tribal areas and part of KP without any interference from the state. There will be no terrorist activities after that except that, the Taliban will eventually want to expand their rule to the rest of Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2012.