What next after the multi-party confab?

Published: September 10, 2013
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The All Parties Conference on September 9, 2013. PHOTO: PID

The All Parties Conference on September 9, 2013. PHOTO: PID

How does an all parties conference (APC) on counter-terrorism policy look and smell like? Absolutely as colourless and odourless as the one concocted on Monday in the Prime Minister’s House in Islamabad. Nothing was settled that could not have been decided without these deliberations.

Indeed, the Taliban spokesperson welcomed the move. One hopes that the TTP will now not go around firing its spokesperson for welcoming the state’s gesture, as it had done a few weeks ago. But then they would welcome the offer of talks since it is accompanied by a condemnation of drone attacks.

Nevertheless, there are two critical questions that ought to be asked at the end of a long day of conferencing. First, how does the state of Pakistan hope to implement the broad political party agreement of condemning drone attacks? The APC should have used the time to also assess the pros and cons of using diplomatic and military means to discourage drone attacks.

Washington has often been asked to desist from drone attacks but the response is that this is the only method to put pressure on the Taliban. In fact, over the past few years, drones have killed most of the Taliban that targeted Pakistan such as Baitullah Mehsud, Ilyas Kashmiri and Rashid Rauf. Even the Pakistan officials admit in private gatherings that drones have proved to be an effective defence. Intriguingly, this is something that is never said publicly.

The other reason why this was a colourless affair was because the civilian stakeholders have no independent means of ascertaining what the military briefed them about. The media seemed pretty excited about the army briefing the parliamentarians. However, the fact of the matter is that the APC did not get any independent opinion or venture out to question the military’s assumptions. This from an institution that is both part of the solution and the problem as well.

One would have been happy had the APC arrived upon a consensus decision to delink the state from any kind of Taliban or jihadi elements. The reality is that there are no good jihadis. Furthermore, our state has no methodology to ensure that the good jihadis do not turn bad tomorrow. The best example is Jaish-e-Mohammad about which rumours are being spread through certain media persons that the security forces have delinked themselves from the JeM’s leader after his involvement in the second attack on General Pervez Musharraf.

The fact is that the state never severed its ties with this organisation due to its strategic significance like that of the LeT/JuD network. Hafiz Saeed and his JuD can hold a huge gathering in Rawalpindi/Islamabad on September 6th while the March 23rd parade continues to be postponed smells of linkages that ought to be questioned.

More importantly, such contradictory happenings reflect on lack of policy. One wishes the parliamentarians would have filled the gap today just as they should have answered a fundamental question as to what will they talk to the Taliban about. Of course, a country in war has to negotiate but is it possible to decide the limits of compromise? What if the Taliban ask for the moon? What if Pakistan cannot afford to accommodate the Taliban? What happens then? It is good that the APC happened but it is essential for it to answer these questions to bring an end to this seemingly never-ending war.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2013. 

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Reader Comments (6)

  • csmann
    Sep 10, 2013 - 9:56AM

    And the fact remains that TTP had continued its murderous agenda. Since APC they have killed at least 20 Pakistani citizens,and law-enforcement personnel,and had a major plan to attack Islamabad with bombs fitted into toy-planes while at the same time talking of negotiations.They have kidnapped scores of peace activists in addition.while IK demands complete cessation of use of force from Government,without telling the law-enforcement how they are going to defend otherwise.

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  • Feroz
    Sep 10, 2013 - 11:38AM

    Parliamentarians always know which side there bread is buttered, those that asked the right questions got their just Desserts. Trying to change the status quo, questioning ideological orientation or calling for accountability on failed strategies could hurt sensitive egos.

    Pakistan has decided to take a certain road, what ever the consequences. However there has to be a show that something is being done, even when nothing is done. There is unlikely to ever be a change in orientation, a new strategy or opening of a new chapter — only packaging will keep changing. It seems the country will not voluntarily make the changes needed to survive, hoping the world will do something to save it. How this plays out in future cannot be foreseen.

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  • Sep 10, 2013 - 1:35PM

    All Parties Conference has been convened and a unanimous resolution has been passed. Now the government should be given time to implement the points agreed by the APC. We should be optimistic and should hope for the best. It will help in restoring peace in Pakistan.

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  • Pasha
    Sep 10, 2013 - 6:40PM

    Does this mean political parties just on their hands and do nothing? Would the critics hold their pens and not write about do-nothing political parties then?

    Every action has a start, no matter how critics feel about it. Now that political parties have started to do something, some critical questions are asked so that the pol. Parties just stop doing anything because they have no answer for the critical questions. It’s good to see that state’s relations with the jihadis are mentioned. The deep state has these relations for the last 30 years. No one asked the deep state to break off those relations, the pol parties just started getting a handle on the situation and tough questions are already out there like swords.

    Let us first tell the deep state to break off those relations before criticizing the political parties for trying to cut off deep state’s relations. It’s easy to criticize but not easy to understand the problems political parties face.
    The negative approach is not a solution.

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  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Sep 10, 2013 - 8:56PM

    “The APC should have used the time to also assess the pros and cons of using diplomatic and military means to discourage drone attacks”. I could not have said it better. Your articles are thought provoking and hope the policy makers are paying attention.

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  • Raj - USA
    Sep 10, 2013 - 9:56PM

    The crux of the problem is this:
    (1) Army and sections and some political parties were supporting talibans. So, they deferred any military action, on one pretext of the other, for a long time.
    (2) This delay in taking military action made the talibans stronger and spread over throughout the country.
    (3) Now the army is afraid of taking a military action as they fear they shall lose. So, they take the line that they have no orders from the civilian government.
    (4) The politicians do not trust the army and think that the army may not obey their orders and may even side with the talibans. However, they have to show that they are in control even if they know that they are not in control. So, they resort to dialogue and APC. They know that the talibans will come after them if they do not have the support of the army.

    In the end, there will never be a military action and the talibans shall rule Pakistan. The best the politicians are hoping for is to rule a part of the country and the army is also hoping for the same.

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