The APC-turned security conference-turned APC has finally decided to get into talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Vague press releases and subsequent press conferences by the interior and information ministers have not spelt out the modalities and parameters of these talks. The government is so scared that it is not even discussing its plan in case of failure of the talks. Thus, the government has agreed to talk without conditions it had been demanding from Taliban. The next of kin of thousands of people killed by the TTP have not been consulted. By offering unconditional talks, Pakistan has conceded defeat. This is unfortunate.
This war was brought to Pakistan by al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban when they moved to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), after Americans defeated them. This was why the army had to move to Fata. Finding Fata to be a safe haven, the Taliban reorganised and carried out attacks in Afghanistan, violating the sovereignty and international obligations of Pakistan. The Americans, instead of having boots on the ground, except on three occasions, resorted to drone strikes, constantly targeting the militants’ leadership. This aspect of the war narrative has never been discussed. Instead of demanding the ouster of foreigners in Fata, right-wing political parties, including Imran Khan’s PTI, made drones a major issue.
When we look at the reasons behind this defeat, the basic factor which emerges is the ambiguity about the narrative of this war. This ambiguity was deliberately created by elements of the right wing. Some of the political parties, such as the PTI, kept on harping about this war being an American war and that terrorism in Pakistan will end with our pullout from this war. The PML-N, which was ruling Punjab, found it convenient not to confront terrorists. In fact, Shahbaz Sharif publically asked the Taliban not to attack Punjab as the PML-N and the TTP both were against America. Thus, Punjab became a nursery of militants along with the North Waziristan Agency (NWA). Then, there were liberals who divided the terrorism issue into the Karachi problem and the Shia genocide and blamed everything on the army and the ISI. So Pakistanis were never on one page in this war against terror.
The army, without political backing, was left alone to fight it out. The government never bothered to interfere or give directions. Former ISI director general General Shuja Pasha admitted that the government was informed on demand. Though overstretched, the army snatched back Swat, Buner, Shangla amongst the settled districts of K-P and Bajaur, Mohmand, Tirah, Orakzai and South Waziristan Agency in Fata from the Taliban. However, the army failed in propagating these achievements.
These talks are bound to fail, yet, once they begin, the police and the army should not be expected to lay down their lives as no one wants to be the last casualty of war. To the families of the 4,000 soldiers who laid down their lives: your sons did their best and you should be proud of them. So are we. For the relatives of 40,000 civilians there is no one to speak for you on social media. Your loved ones were not Shahzeb or Afia. The Supreme Court will not take suo motu that these talks are against their judgment in NRO case. So leave it to Allah and the day of judgment.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2013.
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