Shift in power: Can JUI-S bring the Taliban to the table?

Published: May 26, 2013
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File photo of Maulana Samiul Haq. PHOTO: INP

File photo of Maulana Samiul Haq. PHOTO: INP

PESHAWAR: 

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Chief Nawaz Sharif and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) chief minister designate Pervez Khattak made contact with Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Sami (JUI-S) Chief Maulana Samiul Haq to discuss the possibility of a peaceful settlement with the Taliban.

Sami, who is in his late seventies, heads Darul Uloom Haqqania, one of the largest Deobandi seminaries in the country. In the past, this seminary has issued an honorary degree to Taliban leader Mullah Mohamad Omar.

Why the JUI-S?

These initial attempts to establish contact with Sami signify a policy shift in the new government’s approach to the Taliban as the JUI-S has never been accorded such importance in reaching a political settlement to Pakistan’s bloody insurgency.

Professor Khadim Hussain, an analyst and academic at Islamabad’s Quaid-e-Azam University, believes even though Sami does not have much political clout, his seminary had been a strong recruitment ground for militants in the early 1980s and 1990s.

“So now Sami enjoys significant influence over several diverse militant groups such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), groups affiliated with Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) and the Afghan Taliban,” explains Hussain. “Perhaps this is the reason he is being considered for the role.”

JUI-S Provincial Amir Maulana Yousaf Shah told The Express Tribune Khattak had personally visited Sami, while Nawaz had also made contact regarding peace talks. “This issue needs to be resolved through dialogue and we have been saying this from day one,” he argued.

Shah added if the politicians were really interested, Maulana Sami could play a role in the reconciliation process. However, Shah laid emphasis on the military’s nod of approval as well.

“Sami will play his role when rulers and the powers that be are ready to solve these issues through dialogue,” stated Shah. It is the military which is primarily party to a dispute, not the politicians. “There can be no solution without the army’s agreement.”

Shah maintained Sami had enough clout in the tribal areas as many influential clerics were his disciples to assist in talks with the TTP. He claimed unless the new government refused to bow down to the United States, there could be no agreements with the Taliban.

Fazl left in the cold

As things currently stand, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) has been passed over by incoming government for Sami. It remains to be seen how the JUI-F will react to this development, especially since it often claims to be the country’s largest religiously-inclined political party.

A few months ago, the JUI-F had constituted a grand jirga comprising tribal elders from all agencies in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman had shown a keen interest in laying down a proper mechanism which would facilitate dialogue with the Taliban.

Following the assassination of K-P senior minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour, Fazl presented the jirga as the only viable forum to discuss peace with the militants. On these grounds, he gathered several political leaders in Islamabad in February at an all-parties conference (APC).

At this moment in time it was premature to comment as the new government had not yet been formed, said JUI-F spokesperson Haji Jalil Jan. He asserted his party had not been bypassed or ignored in the process. The declaration of February’s APC stated all peace talks would take place under the auspices of Fazl’s jirga. “Nawaz Sharif himself signed that declaration,” Jan reminded.

Professor Khadim Hussain, however, had doubts about the militants ultimately accepting Fazl’s lead in the peace process. He explained Fazl had been part of the country’s political machinery in one capacity or the other for a considerable period of time. He still aspires to be involved and militants will not easily accept him as a mediator for this very reason, added Hussain.

Despite this analysis, Hussain maintained it was unlikely that either Fazl or Sami could effectively negotiate with the TTP as militants continue to carry out attacks across the country. “If talks are held with militants at this very moment, it means submitting to the Taliban’s diktats.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Ahmed Khan
    May 26, 2013 - 11:28AM

    Unfortunately negotiations are necessary because at this point we cannot defeat the TTP militarily and we must focus on talking to them. Also Nawaz understands the power of TTP and how easily they can get to him or his assets… He will never jeopardize his safety

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  • It Is (still) Economy Stupid
    May 26, 2013 - 1:11PM

    “even though Sami (Maulana Samiul Haq) does not have much political clout, his seminary had been a strong recruitment ground for militants in the early 1980s and 1990s.”
    Million dollar questions: is his seminary the nexus for anti west feeling in Muslims, bombing and other terrorist plots in US, UK, India and all over the world? Is his seminary is the reason why terrorist plot all over the world has some kind of connection to Pakistan? Is his seminary has been responsible for social engineering of the Pakistan by trying to instill Arabic culture in Pakistani society?

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  • syed baqar ahsan
    May 26, 2013 - 1:35PM

    Imran & Nawaz should not leave in fools world TTP will em-brass both in the eyes of people who voted to power

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  • Aviator
    May 26, 2013 - 2:08PM

    So basically we are surrendering to the TTP?

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  • Baba Jee
    May 26, 2013 - 2:48PM

    @It Is (still) Economy Stupid, I’m not sure if you’re joking or just plain stupid.

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  • Gola
    May 26, 2013 - 2:58PM

    @Ahmed Khan:
    You can say the same about Imran Khan

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  • Rex Minor
    May 26, 2013 - 3:16PM

    Not so fast Gentlemen, the taliban leadership will await the changes on ground by the incoming Government as well as of the new Foreign policy before they agree to ‘talk’ not ‘negotate’, outlining their demands.

    Rex Minor

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  • It Is (still) Economy Stupid
    May 27, 2013 - 12:40AM

    @Baba Jee: I am neither joking nor plain stupid. There is no such thing as a stupid question. I am seeking answers and obviously you have nothing useful to contribute to other than attacking and it does reflect in your comments. It is a basic question when there is a nexus between a religious seminary and that too by a powerful seminary and recruiting of militants. It makes one to pause and ask these questions. As the deep throat said if you want the answers –follow the money. I am in no rush for the answers.

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  • raj
    May 27, 2013 - 6:52AM

    The TTP should receive help from the Afghanistan govt because the Pakistanis are helping the Taliban in Afghanistan. So,to control TTP, Pakistan should be forced to eliminate Taliban from Afghanistan first

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