My article ‘Reasons for an operation in south Punjab’ (June 11) came under harsh criticism by some people in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. These people do not wish to come out openly in the media because they are afraid they would be killed. Through this article I will communicate their criticism of the Pakistanis so as to inform them about this perspective on militancy and terrorism.
I have been accused of being naive, just like the leaders of the Aman Tehrik, an anti-Talibanisation peace movement in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. I have been asked why I want to see south Punjab bombed and also who was I addressing in my article when I was advocating for an operation in south Punjab. I was asked whether I was asking the military for an operation against the Punjabi Taliban or the politicians, because, in their view, the chances of the latter ordering one were higher — and for “obvious reasons”.
This question makes sense because politicians cannot even bat an eyelid without the permission of the army. In fact the politicians of all the provinces are in a ‘forced alliance’ with the army. Either the ruling class has to be in union with the masses or with the establishment. And that is where lies the essence of the problem — that the civilian leadership and the people need to show some unity because that is the only way that terrorism and the militancy increasingly gaining ground in Pakistan can be effectively fought.
The issue is that what will happen in Afghanistan once the Americans leave and here the view of many is that once this happens, the establishment in Pakistan will use the militants for its own purpose — just like it did in the past when the Taliban regime in Kabul was set up with Pakistan’s explicit backing. In that context, for an operation to be launched in south Punjab seems an unlikely possibility for now, because that would mean closing the door on using the same elements in Afghanistan for consolidation once the Americans leave.
The fear is that once this happens, secular parties such as Awami National Party (ANP), which have taken a defiant stand against the Taliban, may well end up paying heavily — given that the Taliban will once again be in the establishment’s good books. Of course, the ANP could be better off if its rule in the province had provided some semblance of good governance to the province’s inhabitants — but that has clearly not been the case. So once the Americans leave, and the Taliban return in full force, the ANP and its leadership will be pretty much left on its own – or at least that is one prevailing view.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2010.