Talking peace with the Tehreek-e-Taliban
Peace talks will never work unless foreign jihadis are removed from FATA because they brainwash the Taliban.
On the bright sunny afternoon of September 2, 2011, a few dozen tribesmen of Waziristan gathered in a small local mosque to offer Friday prayers. Like anywhere in the Muslim world, Friday prayers are usually held following a speech by the local prayer leader.
However, today the Imam cut his speech short and dedicated a major part of the sermon time to an unfamiliar guest speaker. Uneasy with the presence of a stranger the locals had no option other than to listen to him. Though, the stranger did not bother to introduce himself to the audience, he was later identified as Abu Zar, a Jihadi ideologue belonging to Myanmar who relocated to Waziristan following the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Usually, these foreign Jihadis present in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) seldom make public appearances. However, dire circumstances forced them to nominate Abu Zar to address the locals who had been becoming extremely hostile to these un-wanted guests due to the increasing number of drone strikes and military pressure from the Pakistan Army.
A tall, skinny, and dark Myanmari clearly stood out amongst the local tribesmen who had a fair complexion and very different features. His tone was emotional and the content of his speech focussed on resonating Al-Qaeda’s agenda of pan-Islamism and global Jihad. He was perhaps tasked to win-back popular support in Waziristan through skilfully manipulating Islamic history and its teachings. For Abu Zar, the best way to accomplish this goal was to exploit the religious sentiments of his audience. He reminded them:
“We are no strangers to each other. What brings us together and makes us the same is the Kalimah, the book, the Prophet, the religion. Your objective is Shariah and we are also striving for the enforcement of Shariah. So when our Quran is the same, our God is the same, our Prophet is the same, our objective is the same and our destiny is the same how can the enemy set us apart? Allah has enriched your hearts with the love for Mujahideen of Africa, America, Russia, Turkistan, Arab and many other parts.”
In an effort to dissuade the locals from supporting the Pakistani government, Abu Zar tried to portray the government and the Armed Forces as a bigger evil then the US, which has caused more damage to the “Mujahideen” than any other country in the world.
“Today, after the US if there is some force that has harmed and damaged the Mujahideen on a huge scale, it is the government of Pakistan, its Armed forces and the ISI….. Tragedies such as Red Mosque were caused by the Pakistani government and its Armed Forces. Even the US and Afghanistan’s puppet governments have refrained from attacking mosques in such a manner. But these apostate soldiers killed our sisters, our elders and teachers. They humiliated our students and Mujahideen. They sell our Mujahideen brothers to the US.”
In the end, Abu Zar made a desperate effort to seek reinsurance from the tribesmen for the prolonged stay of “Refugee Mujahideen” in Waziristan.
“The way you have cooperated with Ansaar in the past, will you continue this? Those who agree please raise your hands."
In response to the plea very few hands are raised. A disappointing response significantly changed the tone of Abu Zar and he dictated:
“Everyone must raise their hands."
The speech delivered in September was released in October 2011 by Ummat Studio of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, another indicator of close connections between international Jihadis hiding in FATA. The timing of the release was also crucial. Under intense pressure, thanks to the US drones and Pakistan’s precise military strikes, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has offered peace to the government of Pakistan. Responding positively to the request, the Pakistani government appointed some local tribal elders and government officials to hold talks with the TTP. Recently, a spokesman of the group admitted to being in dialogue with the government and declared a ceasefire in support of peace talks. However, one must not forget that the TTP is not a unified and organized entity any more as it was in 2008. Therefore, the offer for peace from some commanders in the TTP may infuriate the more radical segment of the group and lead to another wave of infightings. As of today the talks have not yielded any breakthrough and both sides are exploring ways to end years of fighting.
The peace process with the TTP and its allies is not without precedent. In the past the two sides have struck a number of deals hoping to end the armed rebellion in FATA. These past agreements included the Shakai Peace Agreement with the Wazir Tribe (South Waziristan) in 2004, the Sararogha Agreement with the Mehsud Tribe (South Waziristan) in 2005, the Peace Accord with the Utmanzai Wazir Tribe (North Waziristan) in 2006, and the Wana Agreement in 2007.
Nevertheless, despite these concessions to the militant forces in FATA, the conflict has accelerated and, as a result, the country was set to witness a much more organized and lethal wave of militancy. One major factor defining the failure of peace talks with the TTP was the presence of foreign fighters who played an important role to persuade the TTP to breach the agreements and use peace time to reorganize its structure.
The stateless Jihadis largely from Uzbekistan, Tajkistan, Libya, Egypt and few from Britain, America, Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar and Australia have no stakes in a peaceful FATA. Rather a militancy-free tribal area can put their survival at risk. In order to survive and flourish, these non-state actors will go to any extent to keep the pot boiling. For this very reason, Pakistan ought to realize that any such effort to talk peace with the TTP and other factions of Pakistani Taliban is going to be counter-productive unless the state institutions take effective steps to significantly reduce the influence of foreign Jihadis in FATA.