The PTI’s peace march to South Waziristan

Published: October 5, 2012
The writer is professor of political science at LUMS

The writer is professor of political science at LUMS

Though the PTI-led peace march in Waziristan is symbolic, it brings a serious humanitarian issue to the world’s attention — indiscriminate killing of local Pashtun tribesmen, women and children. We know they are not the direct target of America’s drone strikes, but the fact is that they have been killed along with suspected militants who happen to be both foreign nationals and Pakistanis. The deaths of innocent persons with no link to militants and the destruction of their homes and properties is morally abhorrent and politically counter-productive to the goal of fighting against terrorism. The abstract language of war wrapped in a single word, ‘collateral damage’, is nothing more than an insult to intelligence. It is not difficult to understand the meaning of this phrase, which implies that it is the people on the ground who have nothing to do with the two warring sides — the militants and the US and its allies, and yet are getting killed.

The world and Pakistan shouldn’t close their hearts and minds to this mindless killing for political expediency or in the false belief that drones are the only weapons of choice. Let me first make my own view clear on militancy and terrorism, so that there is no confusion about what I say about the peace march. Terrorism and militancy in any shape, under any ruse or excuse, cannot be condoned. We know that states, including Pakistan, act unjustly, do many wrongs and have many failures. A civilised way to counter this state of affairs is through political, peaceful means and through mobilising civil society.

Militancy in Fata is a highly complex problem with so many conflicting narratives — each with a constituency of supporters and followers. The issue at hand is that Imran Khan’s peace march will include hundreds of foreign nationals, including several from the United States. I believe it is late in the day, as this war has gone on for a decade and thousands have already lost their lives, but nonetheless, it is an important move, which brings two issues of national and international political discourse to the fore.

First, Pakistan has failed to provide the people of the tribal areas security of life and property. It has failed to effectively end militant strongholds that have created mini-fiefdoms holding local populations hostage. Second, it has not been effective in persuading the US to accept the fact that drone strikes hurt Pakistani interests as well and defeat the broader objectives of the war on terror.

Imran Khan is the first leader to have shown grit and courage by stepping forward and showing national solidarity with the people of Fata. By marching together to express their opposition to the drone war, the participants of the march will demonstrate that they have a common cause with the tribes.

The second issue is how to regain the trust of the people and sovereign control of these regions. The colonial approach of ruling through three sets of actors — the political agent, the maliks and the security forces — is no longer going to work. A politically integrative approach that brings them into the mainstream will work. Pakistan’s political parties are therefore the best vehicles to achieve all of this.

The peace march with tens of thousands of participants, whether they are allowed to hold the rally or not, has already got its point across — that they will not leave the tribesmen alone in their pain and suffering.

The louder the echo of this message, the broader will be the prospects of negotiating peace and stability in the troubled Fata region.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (19)

  • Javed Mohmand
    Oct 5, 2012 - 10:26PM

    Please check your facts, Imran Khan is not the first politician to hold a rally in FATA against drones.Fazal Ur Rehman has held many between 2006 and 2010 both in South and North Waziristan.,Qazi Hussian Ahmed has also held Jalsas against drones in Tribal areas.Asfandyar wali held one in Bajaur..


  • Falcon
    Oct 5, 2012 - 10:36PM

    First positive article I am seeing in Pakistan’s intellectual space on the issue. Kudos to all independent thinkers who express what they think rather than following the herd.


  • Mirza
    Oct 5, 2012 - 10:55PM

    “A civilised way to counter this state of affairs is through political, peaceful means and through mobilising civil society.” Then it goes on “how to regain the trust of the people and sovereign control of these regions.”
    The issue is not the FATA people or Pakistanis living in those areas. The real problem is the foreign terrorists living in safe havens in FATA and Pakistan with deep rooted support among all rightwing parties and forces. While these leaders including IK and Sharif do not stop demanding the SC to open every old and new case of political importance they never demanded the main question as to how and why the worst terrorists in human history lived for better part of the decade in an army base? The unsigned memo was a threat to national security and treason, dual nationality is a threat but the presence of OBL and his harem was never a threat. There are no demands let alone marches to bring out the truth about the very basis of terrorism and its supporters in Pakistan. Once the terrorists and their supporters are identified and put away the people of FATA would take care of their own everyday problems like before. However, there is unanimity among all rightwing forces to sweep the main issue and basis of terrorism under the rug. When would a real leader rise and demand the publication of all the facts regarding the presence of OBL in an army base? I guess never a Pakistani rightwing leader!


  • Enlightened
    Oct 5, 2012 - 11:09PM

    The big question is on the intent of the PTI chief whether he is taking up this march for furtherance of his own political goal to rule Pakistan or on humanitarian grounds ?


  • Maryam
    Oct 5, 2012 - 11:18PM

    Hope Imran Khan can hold another March against TTP brutalities as well


  • wsd
    Oct 6, 2012 - 3:59AM

    This is what Imran stands for. The only political leader going to Waziristan and bringing the whole issue in front on international media and public. Since Imran is a politicain and in our country if you are against me I will beagainst every good thing of yours.
    In my view all of us should support Imranno matter we are a member of PTI or not.


  • Max
    Oct 6, 2012 - 3:59AM

    Rasul Bakhsh, With all due respect, I beg to differ with you. I have no sympathy, neither do I feel sorry for Waziris. What a mess have they created and you are apologizing on their behalf. You sound so different from the Rasul Bakhsh that I have known for last forty-plus years. I understand there is a collateral damage but can you tell me who is responsible for it?


  • Bilal Magsi
    Oct 6, 2012 - 8:58AM

    Kudos to Imran Khan and PTI for taking such risk for their brothers and sister in distress in FATA region. International news have already started picking this news. Here is article from CNN


  • Rana
    Oct 6, 2012 - 9:57AM

    Waziristan is the part of Pakistan, but nothing maching with Pakistn:
    Their cultur,traditions,laws and way of life.Recommend

  • Khalid Aziz
    Oct 6, 2012 - 11:01AM

    Come on Doctor Sahb! Imran Khan has no need to protest against drone strikes to save Pashtoons, they already have left their homes to the indiscriminate bombardments of our own forces.


  • Hassan
    Oct 6, 2012 - 11:13AM

    @ MaX

    Tell me one single attempt to bring these tribes to mainstream? Yes they are tribal society and they want to live like that because they dont know any other way of life but a continuous serious effort similar to make them Jehadi could have brought them to the mainstream and so called our way of life…But guess what nobody cares they are warriors and can be sold to America to earn dollars so America can use them against russia and now these poor people can be killed for the same reason $$$$…Lets appreciate a positive move and lets try to educate them and it will take few decades until they come to mainstream and we have to start now otherwise it will be too late.Recommend

  • watchtower
    Oct 6, 2012 - 11:16AM

    Imran Khan now that you have kicked off the march, if you return short of Kotakai i,ll question your substance and also that of your gladiators.


  • Faheema
    Oct 6, 2012 - 11:30AM

    @ Mirza, thanks for bringing out ugly reality covered under the rug and ignored by right-wing parties, SC even parliament. I failed to understand these lines of Dr Rais “The louder the echo of this message, the broader will be the prospects of negotiating peace and stability in the troubled Fata region”. It seems there has never been any negotiations in past; what about brutality of local Talibans and their foreign allies. I wish IK and right wingers gain sanity although there is least hope. They know it is easy to criticize West, ruling alliance and saner elements but never to dreaded demons like Talibans, militant outfits, reasons we are all well-aware.


  • mani
    Oct 6, 2012 - 12:04PM



  • JS
    Oct 6, 2012 - 12:21PM

    @Max: When a Hellfire Missile fired from a U.S. drone kills a child in Waziristan, his father will go to war with everything and everyone. Nothing to do with Al-Qaeda or militancy. Also, i would love to see your face and subsequent reactions after (God forbid) a shiny piece of metal with the american flag on it “accidentally” skewers your children.


  • Taimur Arbab
    Oct 6, 2012 - 3:57PM

    Khan all the way! go Imran go! show them that the colours of rainbow do exist in the FATA and there are 800,000 souls out there who need the world to see their plight..Recommend

  • Oct 6, 2012 - 5:15PM

    “Hope Imran Khan can hold another March against TTP brutalities as well.”

    If he is trying to gather support, then its OK. However, if he intends to put serious problems the country is facing on the agenda, then how about a march from Gawadar to Lyari?


  • Ahmad
    Oct 6, 2012 - 6:15PM

    One of the best articles I have read in past few weeks on ET. Respect for all the scholars-and not the pseudo-intellectuals. Recommend

  • Oct 7, 2012 - 9:56AM

    Feels like a paper of cowards.
    Censored:would not print this.



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