The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has once again muddied the waters for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and issued a couple of contradictions of the ‘permission’ earlier given by the TTP chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, hiding somewhere in North Waziristan, in fear of drones that killed his cousin Qari Hussain, the ‘manufacturer’ of suicide bombers.
The durable spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan has repeated his earlier objections that “Imran Khan is a liberal, secular person and so is his party; we deny all baseless news stating that we have offered to provide him security for his so-called peace rally. His so-called peace march is not in sympathy with drone-hit Muslims; instead, it is a try by him to increase his political height”. He went on to propound a rather complex definition of Pakistani political parties, in power and out of it, and their unsuitability as rulers of an Islamic state.
Then another more scary statement emanated from Jaishul Khilafa — an outfit linked to al Qaeda — terming Imran Khan “an agent of Israel, the United States and Britain, who wants to strengthen the hold of Jewish and Christian forces in the tribal area of Pakistan”. In this warning, there is an evident threat to the life and limb of the participants in the march. Clearly, the TTP is speaking with a forked tongue signalling differences of approach towards Pakistan as a state.
Government officials think the Taliban are splintered. Normally, Imran Khan should have heeded this analysis. Two ISI men, Khalid Khwaja and Colonel Imam, were sent to Waziristan on the assumption that their ‘services’ to the Taliban and al Qaeda in the past would give them safe passage to the inner sanctum of the terrorists. (Some assurances had been received from the Taliban or a group of them.) Both were killed by a faction calling themselves (Punjabi) Tigers. Imran Khan should also be chary of taking his 100,000-strong march to Kotkai, the village of Hakimullah and the late Qari Hussain, because they are known as killers of Pakistani Shias. The Wazirs want him to go to Wana instead, which is the headquarters of South Waziristan and less dubious in credentials.
But Imran Khan says that he has received no direct messages from the Taliban and blames two quarters, the PPP government and Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI-F. The Maulana is supposed to have offered his unworthy spin on the march by saying that Imran Khan had organised the march to boost the filming career of his ex-wife Jemima Khan.
The PTI chief says that if something happens to his supporters on the way to Kotkai, the government would be to blame. This means that the government should give him protection to avoid being blamed if something untoward happens. On the other hand, officials in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa say that the foreigners with the PTI — around 150 from the US and the UK, protesting the policy of drones in anti-terrorism strategy — will require clearance and a no-objection certificate from the interior ministry. Given the conditions in the tribal areas, no one in the country’s intelligence sector would easily issue such clearance to foreigners.
Ironically, people in the US and the UK, who object to ‘illegal’ drones, mostly belong to the ‘rascally NGOs’, abominated in Pakistan, and a few academics whose opinion no one minds printing in the American press. These voices are being heard but count for nothing in the overwhelming American and Western view of what kind of results the drones are achieving in Pakistan where the state has lost bits of its territory and is finding it hard to face off the terrorists. However, there is no doubt that documentary films made in Waziristan by these conscientious critics will do a lot of propaganda damage to the American policy of drones.
The march of 100,000 was haunted by contradictions from the start because of its overly fanciful dimensions. Getting such a large crowd from Islamabad to DI Khan and from there to Kotkai is a feat of logistics whose security no one can guarantee.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2012.