So many aspects of our politics are marred with irony that at times it becomes impossible to see where exactly reality lies. In many ways, threats made to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader, Imran Khan, by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan are strange. Mr Khan had stated that he would lead a march to the tribal areas to protest drone strikes. These strikes are also fiercely opposed by the Taliban themselves. But it appears they do not want Mr Khan to rally against drones as they argue that he is a ‘liberal’ and someone who, in their eyes, is seen as a person without any religious belief.
This obviously does not conform to Mr Khan’s analysis of himself. He has described himself as a practising Muslim and has come under criticism from many in the country for being ‘too soft’ on the Taliban. In a 2008 interview, he astonishingly announced — despite all evidence to the contrary — that the Taliban were not blowing up girls schools, but that, in fact, it was the government which was making false allegations against them. We wonder if Mr Khan still sticks to this point of view or if the threats made against him will bring about any change in his opinions on the Taliban and their agenda in Pakistan.
The Taliban have now denied reports that stated that they will kill Mr Khan if he went to the tribal areas, with their spokesperson declaring that he had been misquoted. What he did, in fact, say was that an attack will be made on any political leader planning to contest elections who visited the tribal areas as polling was part of the ‘secular’ system in his view and did not conform to the Taliban vision of an Islamic state.
With elections now only months away, Mr Khan needs to make it clear which side he stands on. He cannot teeter on the fence any longer. People wish to know whether he opposes or approves of the Taliban and exactly how he intends to deal with them. The Taliban have made their intentions quite clear and declared Mr Khan a foe and it is obvious that they are not willing to tolerate any view other than their own at any cost.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2012.