Dirty talk

Published: December 17, 2011
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The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore 
saroop.ijaz@ tribune.com.pk

The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore saroop.ijaz@ tribune.com.pk

A few days ago, our federal interior minister, Rehman Malik thanked the Taliban for heeding to his request and not killing innocent civilians on the Ashura. Notwithstanding the obscenely obvious silliness of the statement and the blatant manifestation of the Stockholm syndrome, I attempted to resist the temptation of making a crack at it. The primary reason for my reticence was probably the fact that I often find the good minister as a hopelessly unchallenging target.

Now, it seems that the statement might have been part of a larger scheme of making nice with the Taliban. A spokesperson for the TTP has confirmed that negotiations between the group and the federal government are currently underway. The federal government has not confirmed the existence of the negotiations, hence one cannot say with any certainty that talks are underway. However, the trajectory seems to be pointing with evident inevitability to the possibility. The generic question of whether any negotiation or compromise with the TTP should be conducted is met with the even more generic answer of everyone agreeing with the general principle that the war cannot continue forever, and so on.

A couple of months ago, an all parties’ conference, apparently after intense deliberation, came up with the conclusion that peace be given a chance. The one positive aspect of the conference was that now we officially acknowledge the Pakistan Army as a political party, along with the Sunni Tehreek of course. One is conflicted in the reasons for detesting this high school-like slogan: is it the naiveté, the disingenuousness or that it is unbelievably unimaginative which really irks one. The benefit of this hippie slogan is singular; it is too general and too noble sounding for any meaningful opposition.

There are various permutations and combinations of this argument often veiled in foreign relations and policymaking rhetoric, yet the basic premise remains fairly clear. The argument for talking with the terrorists is that it was essentially America’s war and it is now impossible for us to win. The argument is not prima facie illogical and is by all means capable of being defended, and it has proponents from all sides of the political spectrum. Yet I am afraid they seek to deal with a phenomenon they do not completely understand or do not want to.

At the risk of belabouring the obvious, I hope that the Swat peace deal has not been erased from our memories. One of the images that are hardest to dislodge from our recent collective national memory is when the thuggish appeal to theocratic fascism made by Sufi Muhammad was broadcast uninterrupted by almost all television channels. The speeches and the rhetoric by the terrorists only became more and more vicious once the Swat Valley, along with its peace-loving inhabitants, had been handed over to them on a platter. The conventional logic of ‘giving peace a chance’ would dictate that terrorists should have been appeased or even subdued by the mass human sacrifice. The Swat example is not a case of the specifics of negotiation gone wrong; it displays the basic fallacy in conducting any such negotiation. Faith-based terrorism is by its nature expansionist and hence to expect a piece of paper or a word of honour to restrain them misses the point of them resorting to terror in the first place.

Another major argument is the human dimension, the cost in terms of innocent lives both civilian and military. Let us be very clear on the point, we have lost thousands of our citizens because they were murdered by those who believed that they are cementing their place in heaven. All this gibberish about fighting the Americans war and Pakhtun nationalism is just that, gibberish. The Pakhtuns have a glorious tradition of resisting tyranny with honour and bravado without resorting to stoning women to death. To conflate this bloodlust with Pakhtun nationalism is contemptible and ignorant. The way we capitulated without a fight to the United States in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 was shameful; we should have resisted imperialism then. Yet it does not make the Taliban, or any plagiarised version of the murderers, any less murderous. It is dishonest to deny the existence of an ideology that not only sanctions but glorifies that wanton killing of innocent women and children.

Imperialism is a concept which has our public intellectuals in knots, especially the liberals. The Taliban are not anti-imperialists, they are anti-civilisation, and, if anything, they, if given a chance, would be imperialist in a manner the world has not seen before. American imperialism needs to be fought but not with the aid of the terrorists. September 11 was a tragedy in more ways than the obvious loss of life — for me, personally, it made Gore Vidal, Noam Chomsky and Tariq Ali less readable, often unbearable. They sought to do the impossible, defend the indefensible, in their attempt to explain terrorism as solely a function of American foreign policy. Many in our academia, remaining true to their creed, attempted to uncritically copy them. As I write these lines, Christopher Hitchens is dead and the world today is slightly worse off for it. Hitchens, when he was wrong he was horrendously wrong, but when he was right he was right, and he so often was. I would have said rest in peace, but it would have meant nothing to him.

The terrorists are fanatics who wish to destroy society and life as we have known it. The cliché “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist” is overrated and in any event they are nobody’s freedom fighter. If all this sounds as dreary sentimental nonsense and hollow distant bravado to you, remember it is in our self-interest to fight and defeat them. Any capitulation or one-sided peace deal with them is by its nature doomed to fail and once it does, they will come back with a vengeance as they did after Swat. The precedent of negotiating and ceding to the edicts of people threatening to kill is one which is susceptible to permeate and will be applicable to your local gangster before you know it.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (29)

  • Meekal Ahmed
    Dec 17, 2011 - 11:34PM

    Excellent.

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  • Nadir
    Dec 17, 2011 - 11:52PM

    A crime is a crime. Just because the motivation of the criminal taps into our collective anti-Americanism doesnt justify them being romanticised.

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  • antony
    Dec 17, 2011 - 11:52PM

    Excellent write up !! . Your intellectual brilliance seen through this write up inspires to fix terrorist conflicts whereever in the world ..Your prescription does work if we see in srilanka LTTE was decimated not just by Srilankan army in forward thrust but also by the sea entrapment provided by India not to let prabhakaran escape during final days of the battle.
    For pakistan to face Taliban the cocreater americans are there to help which should be used to the hilt to save pakistan in my opinion.

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  • Icydevil
    Dec 18, 2011 - 12:05AM

    And the whole point of your article was?? Taliban are bad. Terrorists are bad. Everyone knows these facts. The dirty talk is…..????

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  • Ayesha
    Dec 18, 2011 - 12:13AM

    Brilliant Article once again.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Dec 18, 2011 - 12:38AM

    What is the point saroop ji just what i understand Rehman malik Phd which we know for too long for his statments…

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  • Mj
    Dec 18, 2011 - 1:07AM

    Mr. Ijaz, you are only behind Hitchens and Kristoff among my favorite writers. It is a huge failure of our media and intelligentsia that the barbaric Taliban and their ilk are still seen in positive terms and enjoy broad support at all levels of society (it baffles me), not just among the uneducated. The unfortunate events and losses of the past few years had provided us an excellent opportunity to utterly discredit the militaristic and fascistic ideology of such groups, however we have been unable, or unwilling, to tackle it head on. Were the Taliban to march on Islamabad many of our deluded folks will welcome them, not knowing or forgetting what happened in Afghanistan, Algeria, Indonesia, and Pakistan, and what is happening in Philippines, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Hitchens was right in his contention that it poisons everything, especially if we speak of the minds which support the very ideas which threaten their existence, freedoms, and way of life.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Dec 18, 2011 - 1:18AM

    @MJ,
    Those Athiest Hitchens and Kristoff are your heros then u deserved Nobel reading prize of the year like obama got with doing any thing. did u see his book God is not great shame shame…

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  • Mj
    Dec 18, 2011 - 1:54AM

    @Ali Tanoli:
    Well Mr. Tanoli I do not let a writer’s citizenship, ethnicity, gender, orientation or religious affiliation get in the way of recognizing good writing and whatever good point they might raise. If views of atheists (no capitalization) are somehow invalid, then I’ll have to disregard the works, writings, and opinions of Stephen Hawking, Richard Feynman, Einstein, Bill Gates, Socrates,…you get the idea…

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  • MarkH
    Dec 18, 2011 - 3:09AM

    By the end of your article I could find nothing to complain about or to add. I don’t think a reader could ask for much more and I’m not going to be all condescending with praise as if you were even looking for it and I’m terrible at that kind of thing to begin with. So…

    Nice article.

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  • Sadiq
    Dec 18, 2011 - 3:24AM

    I love how fear is used as a tactic to coerce people into believing that this insane war should continue because civilization itself might be at stake!!! 

    We didn’t understand the conflict back then and we don’t understand it now, if Mr Ijaz must be joking if he believes that anyone will give credence to his argument over Chomsky, and Tariq Ali. You ask us to remember the swat deal but keep forgetting the non stop war in-between the peace deals has that delivered peace?

    You talk about the Taliban ideology to kill women and children well are the predator drones shooting flowers and are aliens being killed in those attacks??

    None of the people who oppose this war defend the terrorist they seek to understand what fuels this madness and to eliminate a problem one must understand the root cause just labeling them anti civilization and wanting to physically eliminate them is subscribing to the same mindset as that of the Taliban, I thought we were on a higher moral plane!

    You talk about the people killed by the monsters ever wonder how many innocent people died due to military operations make a guess Mr Ijaz…….over 12000 people were killed due to these military operations this included women and children will you speak with such passion for them also or is collateral damage okay because your life matters but theirs don’t.

    I will not condone violence in any way through terrorism by anti state elements or state elements and  the solution will be through talks only 
     Dialogue is not appeasement and one must not construe a debate where talks are considered equal to committing terrorism.

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  • numbersnumbers
    Dec 18, 2011 - 5:07AM

    @Ali Tanoli:
    For those who didn’t read Christopher Hitchens excellent book, “God is not Great”, you are missing a very lucid explanation of how “Religion” has resulted in more death, destruction and suffering over the last centuries then all the “regular” wars and conflicts! A taste of which is very evident today in Pakistan everywhere you look! Think Sunni/Shia, India/Pakistan, Ahmadi conflicts, Etc!

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  • Sajid
    Dec 18, 2011 - 5:40AM

    Excellent piece. Very intelligent, and sometimes too intelligent for the mentally challenged. Nevertheless, I agree.

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  • You Said It
    Dec 18, 2011 - 5:56AM

    Bravo! Beautifully articulated.

    Anyone who says that the fight against the terrorists and the Taliban (which has become synonymous with “abusers of women and children”) is not their fight, is guilty of surrender to the basest instinct in man. Those who seek to make peace with them make themselves less human.

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  • vasan
    Dec 18, 2011 - 6:13AM

    Unless and until the Pak media (Urdu TV channesl) stops glorifying these terrorist monsters , unless and until it gives equal importance to the violent aspects of these terrorists and puts up the case to eliminate them, it will be difficult for progressive authors like Saroop Izaj to convince the people in power about his fantastic argument. Lots of valid points but unfortunately no takers in the Pak establishment and govt.

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  • Aziz Akhmad
    Dec 18, 2011 - 8:08AM

    Excellent!

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  • Mirza
    Dec 18, 2011 - 9:03AM

    SI, once again a nice Op Ed. I like your writings and this is right up there. I do not agree with you for being too harsh on liberal writers and praise the ones who supported Bush’s invasion of Iraq. That had nothing to do with terrorism and based on greed and lies by Bush govt. There is a very good point that you mentioned.
    “The way we capitulated without a fight to the United States in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 was shameful; we should have resisted imperialism then.”
    The reason there were no protests and media noise because Gen Mush was in power. No memogate, no other conspiricies were possible. All opposition to make Pakistan a colony would have been dealt with an iron fist. Now it is free for all to blame the presence of Americans, drones, air bases, presence of OBL and other terrorists, etc., to the elected govt.

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  • narayana murthy
    Dec 18, 2011 - 10:21AM

    TTP which is allegedly attacking Pakistan on the behest of Afghanistan and USA is being negotiated with, by the Pak government.

    Taliban which is allegedly attacking USA and Afghan interests in Afghanistan is being negotiated with, by the Afghanistan government.

    So, now, Taliban will start attacking Pakistan and TTP will start attacking Afghanistan?!!!!

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  • observer
    Dec 18, 2011 - 10:56AM

    @Icydevil

    The dirty talk is…..????

    The ‘dirty talk’ is the talk of having another peace talk with the Taliban. And the idea of the talk was mooted in the All Party Conference chaperoned by the establishment.

    And the shocking fact is that dozens of Taliban killers have already been released from prisons as a goodwill measure ahead of the talks.

    The dirtiness of all this lies in the fact that this is being done in the face of the fate of peace deals as seen in NWA and Swat.

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  • S.R.H. Hashmi
    Dec 18, 2011 - 12:27PM

    We condemn Taliban atrocities all the time but if on one occasion, they demonstrated restraint and Rahman Malik thanked them for once, why should we be so mean and stringy not to appreciate it and be furious with Rahman Malik over his gesture? Also, the super power America and its forty odd allies, using all their might and having spent hundreds of billions of dollars have not been able to finish off Taliban in Afghanistan, and are forced to consider alternatives, so how can we possibly hope to eliminate the menace using just our might. We do have to work out a revised strategy, without compromising on the basic principles, to find a workable solution to the problem which best serves our interests. Having ousted USSR, perhaps Taliban thought they could take on the world. After all that they have gone through, they would surely be in a more reconciliatory mood now.

    You say “September 11 was a tragedy in more ways than the obvious loss of life — for me, personally, it made Gore Vidal, Noam Chomsky and Tariq Ali less readable, often unbearable. They sought to do the impossible, defend the indefensible, in their attempt to explain terrorism as solely a function of American foreign policy.” Now, how can one possibly find a satisfactory solution to a problem, discussing it out of context, without trying to locate the factors that gave rise to it in the first place. Treating just the symptoms and not the disease can hardly provide a satisfactory remedy to the ailment. Even Gen. David Petraeus said words to the effect that US policy in the Middle East creates problems for America. Do you not think there is something terribly wrong with the US legislation enacted as far back as 1990 that provides stoppage of US funding, even subscription, to any United Nations agency that recognizes Palestine State as a member? And where would you place Iraq invasion? Do you think that growing anti-Americanism in our region and elsewhere is just a mad, mad phenomenon, devoid of all sense and justification? Choosing ‘with us’ unconditionally in response of the ‘with us or against us’ demand of George Bush made us a target of not just the Taliban but also of all those who hate Americans for their misdeeds plus the occupation of Afghanistan. Distancing from Americans would definitely make us less of a target.

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  • yousaf
    Dec 18, 2011 - 1:26PM

    If a simple request by Rehman malik can keep Taliban guerrillas at bay then what is the use to fight and kill and split so much innocent blood.If fight is the objective then question does not arise of capitulation on either side as according to the author they will come back and fight again,So, just keep-on fighting the fight which is already on,but author too better remember that no regular army can ever fight a ghost adversary particularly when it is fighting a proxy war.Nor the war has ever been a solution to any contention,therefore,the sooner we stop fighting and start talking the better.Rest assured if talks succeed,which I am sure will,they are not going to come back to fight.Paranoia though,has no known cure.

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  • Parvez
    Dec 18, 2011 - 1:28PM

    ….. I thought you could not get any better and you just did.

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  • Jamil Maqsood
    Dec 18, 2011 - 9:52PM

    Pakistan can’t get rid of prevailing socio-economic and socio-politcal problem if policy makers with a strong political will shall not revisit cold war politics. The day dreamers and those who are using terrorism and religion as policy tool could not take Pakistan at a right track in south Asian region.

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  • Rahil
    Dec 18, 2011 - 10:49PM

    You write so much, but say nothing at all. Rhetorical and pretentious.

    P.s. Coincidentally, like Hitchens, I too when wrong am horrendously wrong, but when right, I am right. Yawn.

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  • RajX
    Dec 18, 2011 - 11:21PM

    @Ali Tanoli: if you had “read” his book “god is not great” instead of just ‘seeing” it, you may not talk the way you are doing now. Who knows…God knows…The book would have even made you wiser.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Dec 18, 2011 - 11:42PM

    @2Numbers Numbers,
    I think non reliegous wars killed more peoples on earth than the reliegous ones u can figured
    out WW1, WW2, these two wars basically fought between same reliegen peoples they were
    christians and killed millions on each others and then same way iran , iraq war were both shia
    muslims countries and killed between over million peoples afghanistan war was also not reliegous war at all but U.S and pakistan make it reliegous in pakistan most of peoples dieds
    in last therty years on Ethanic fights and political fights not reliegous there are some cases
    do happend but u cant blame reliegen for that period.

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  • bangash
    Dec 19, 2011 - 12:20AM

    The Taliban are powered by their ideology and bloodlust. Don’t worry this latest peace agreement will fail like all the rest before it.

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  • Rahil
    Dec 19, 2011 - 12:29AM

    @Sajid:
    What a nauseatingly pompous, arrogant, sycophant and pseudo-intelluctual thing to say.

    Anyway, perhaps, all should study the merits of the IRA peace deal and the resolution to the Algerian civil war before irking at the idea of a similar resolution in Pakistan.

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  • Moulay Youssef
    Dec 19, 2011 - 12:40AM

    Had he lived in Pakistan, Hitchens would have been murdered by either a) the mullahs/salafists, b) the ISI or c) the pandering, anachronistic “blasmphemy” laws that have become so trendy. I wouldn’t be surprised if your clerics had issused fatwas calling for his death on numerous occasions. So, were his pronunciations on “the Land O’ the Pure’ ‘horrendously wrong’ or ‘right’??? Let me guess, when he supported your narrative, he was right?

    Otherwise, carry on with the stale platitudes and bromides… China will help you out of this quandary, because the Chinese like to share hot cocoa, fluffy kittens, ponies and rainbows with their all-weather buddies.

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