Two days after making an impassioned appeal for truce, a group of top clerics from the Deobandi school of thought have hinted that they could mediate peace between the government and homegrown militants, if formally requested.
The clerics from Wafaqul Madaris – a conglomerate of mainly Deobandi madrassas of the country – had appealed to the government and the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan to engage in a dialogue to avoid further bloodshed in the country.
The TTP welcomed the appeal and said if the government announced a ceasefire the group would follow suit.
“The government has not asked us for mediation. If requested, we will play our role,” Wafaqul Madaris General Secretary Qari Muhammad Hanif Jalandhri told The Express Tribune. He, however, denied reports that a delegation of Deobandi scholars had met the interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Tuesday night.
The Deobandi clerics have welcomed the ‘positive response’ to their appeal from the militants. “The willingness from the TTP to cease fire is an encouraging development,” they said in a statement. “Now, we’ll appeal to the government and the army to announce a truce at the earliest.”
Some interior ministry officials claimed that a four-member Wafaqul Madaris delegation met Chaudhry Nisar who requested them to mediate between the government and the TTP. Officially, the ministry, however, denied knowledge of any such meeting.
The federal information minister, on the other hand, praised the clerics’ initiative. “The religious scholars are the teachers of the Taliban. And the Taliban should listen to them,” Pervaiz Rashid said on Wednesday. He wouldn’t say, however, whether or not the government has tasked the Wafaqul Madaris clerics with bringing the militants to the negotiating table.
Referring to the 2007 Lal Majid siege and the 2009 military operation in Swat, a Wafaqul Madaris official said the then governments had betrayed the clerics actively involved in negotiations.
He added that the then governments were not sincere in pursuing talks and that they had used the Wafaqul Madaris clerics only to give out an impression that they had exhausted all options before using force.
“The Wafaqul Madaris will not get involved in any peace initiative this time around unless it is assured that this government seriously wants to pursue talks,” added the official who didn’t want to be named in the report.
“We don’t have any contacts with the Taliban,” he said. “However, several influential religious scholars and clerics associated with Wafaqul Madaris could convince the Taliban to negotiate with the government.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 3rd, 2013.