How much talking about the talks for talks is enough before such talk gets reduced to mere talking points for talking heads?
We are in the process of finding out — to our detriment, if I may add. Talk about talks permeated the election atmosphere and spilled over into the post-election arena. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan threatened to unleash a national security policy, replete with the hows, whys and whens of combating the terror network. The threat — so far — remains unrealised. Premier Nawaz Sharif talked the talk, but never walked it. PTI supremo Imran muttered ‘I told-you-so’s’. And kept parroting his jaded line about how our misled brothers — the throat-slitters — should be returned to our loving embrace. The maulanas nodded in agreement.
Thus was born the craven APC resolution.
A few high-profile assassinations later, this piece of paper is bleeding the resolve it never had. The talking heads of the APC, meanwhile, are whistling in the air, or making inane statements which all point to a very obvious, and a very disturbing conclusion: The APC armchair appeasers have no clue what to do next.
Our turn to say ‘We told you so?’
But wait. Is there a sliver of cleverness in this cowardice? Is there a remote possibility that the government — and the Brass — are giving enough rope to the TTP to hang itself with? If so, is this the unsaid core of the elusive national security policy which appears to be here, there and nowhere?
The logic goes something like this: Rope in the TTP apologists, like the PTI, JUI, JI, etc. by promising a sincere dialogue with the terrorists. Then try and initiate some form of a negotiation process, knowing well that the effort will be stillborn. Once failure to talk ensues — a la Swat — and TTP shows its true colours, public opinion will swing towards a hardline position. The TTP apologists will be forced into a corner, and the nation will be ready for a bare-knuckled fight with the throat-slitters.
Sounds doable? Well, depends on whether we can believe the PML-N government to be so savvy and clear-eyed. Nawaz Sharif is not as categorical in his position on the TTP as say, the ANP or the MQM, but neither is he a blinkered apologist like Imran Khan, Maulana Fazlur Rehman or Munawaar Hassan of the Jamaat-e-Islami. Yes, he has a conservative constituency to protect, and yes he’s not prone to taking on the TTP publically, but those close to him say that he holds a nuanced position, perhaps, even a realistic one. In other words, he’s thinking in shades of gray.
Those close to him will clearly say this. After all, they are in the business of manufacturing a refurbished image for him; an image which centres around a pensive, deep thinking, grounded and much-chastened politician who has just returned from the wilderness of the opposition.
In this state of mind, were he to go to an airline counter, he would be prone to say: “Can you also check in my emotional baggage”.
That being so, he also realises the army high command is clearer in its thinking than he is. But the generals are going along, talking the talk but ready to walk the walk. We just lost a two-star general at the hands of the throat-slitters. The rope just got that much longer. Even the TTP apologists squirmed and whelped.
What then happens to the charade of talks, if it is indeed a charade? How long will the government grovel in front of the throat-slitters while burying brave sons and daughters? How long will the apologist tail wag the state dog?
Even if Nawaz Sharif is the man with the plan, the arrival on the scene, of a new joker in the pack — Javed Ebrahim Piracha — and the ensuing tragedy of errors, has compounded the situation.
For now, talking heads reign supreme. And the Brass bristles.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2013.