Talks yes, but at what cost?

Talks, no doubt, are the best option but that should not and must not mean surrender or compromise.

Daud Khattak September 10, 2013
The writer is Senior Editor at RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal. The views expressed here are his own

On September 7, an ex-prime minister (PM) of Pakistan sought help from a radical cleric to ensure the safe release of his son, kidnapped by armed men and reportedly shifted to the country’s Wild West of Waziristan. Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, instead of approaching the high-ups in Islamabad, visited the Darul Uloom Haqqania in Nowshera, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) to get Maulana Samiul Haq’s help in the recovery of his youngest son, Ali Haidar Gilani, who was kidnapped days before the 2013 general elections.

Earlier, the then would-be chief minister (CM), Pervez Khattak, along with other top leaders, visited the Haqqania to help initiate talks with the Taliban via the seminary’s top head, Maulana Samiul Haq, soon after the half-tsunami that swept K-P. The key question is: Where is the state’s writ and who holds the power when an ex-PM and a prospective CM are seeking help from a cleric, who never bit an eyelid calling himself the ‘father of the Taliban’?

Whether Maulana Sami or the Haqqania, in that sense, will be of any help in the release of Ali Haidar Gilani or securing some days of peace for the K-P coalition government is anybody’s guess. But the compromising approach towards the armed groups, by the ruling parties, is certainly passing the wrong signals to the people who had shown an immense degree of resilience in the face of all the terrorist attacks, over the past few years.

As for Gilani’s visit to the Haqqania, that is representing the utter frustration of a man with the state and its institutions responsible for the safety of lives and property of peaceful and law-abiding citizens.

Unfortunately, the sense of security one should feel in a state and the trust shown by citizens in security agencies has almost vanished in some parts of the country. Albert Einstein once said: “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” Now consider, for a while, how many political parties condemned the Taliban by name when they unleashed a reign of terror during the previous government, killing security personnel, government officials, innocent civilians besides bombing schools and targeting schoolgoing girls and working women. Malala Yousufzai, perhaps, was lucky for she narrowly escaped the would-be assassin’s bullet, but that was not the case with Farida Afridi, a social worker from the Khyber tribal agency, who was shot dead by armed motorcyclists in broad daylight, in Jamrud. Afridi’s sin was her struggle for the betterment of tribal women.

In the same token, very few among the so-called mainstream political leaders raised their voices when the repercussions of the country’s Afghan policy started reaching the otherwise unruly but peaceful tribal areas and culminated in the total collapse of the key pillars — mosque, malak, hujra and jirga — of the tribal system at the hands of militants and their native supporters who had a total disregard for local culture and traditions. The militants did not even spare the mausoleums of sufis such as Rehman Baba and Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari. Instead of taking serious action against such people to nip the evil in the bud, they were garlanded, honoured — sometimes in official ceremonies — and anyone among the locals who dared to raise their voice was killed, kidnapped, threatened or forced to leave the land of their forefathers.

Again, very few voices were heard when the tally of slain tribal elders at the hands of international terrorists and their local supporters crossed 500. Ultimately, the tribesmen who were completely disenchanted with the state’s ability to safeguard their lives and property either succumbed to the Taliban agenda in their areas or migrated to other parts of the country. Notwithstanding their mismanagement and corruption in some areas, the previous government in K-P kept the morale of the people and its security agencies high by assuring them full support in the fight against terrorism.

However, the situation has changed with the taking over of the new guards, after May 2013, who prefer talks to the use of force. Talks, no doubt, are the best option but that should not and must not mean surrender or compromise at the cost of something really costly, i.e., the trust of the citizens. Else, we will see a sitting prime minister or chief minister or governor begging a pro-Taliban leader for the release of their near and dear ones.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2013.

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amoghavarsha.ii | 8 years ago | Reply

if PM/Parliament is negotiating with Taliban, what for are you negotiating...are you negotiating for peace? then your army is not able to maintain peace, is that right?

shahzad alam | 8 years ago | Reply

will written khatak sb

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