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Don’t expect a miracle to happen

The ignoble massacre of children and teachers in Peshawar has led to unprecedented anger and grief across the country. The state has responded by ending the moratorium on the death penalty and convicted terrorists are now being hanged. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has announced that the days of differentiating between the good and the bad Taliban are over. A parliamentarians’ committee is reviewing counterterrorism measures that need to be adopted. The military leadership has undertaken the diplomatic-security initiative to engage with Afghan authorities on potential action that can nab the Taliban leadership based in Afghanistan.
All these measures are important and noteworthy. The ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azb is here to stay and perhaps, is likely to be extended to other areas. But the central question is, whether these tactical moves are sufficient to tackle the hydra-headed Frankenstein’s monsters that Pakistan’s flawed national security policy has created, sustained and nurtured, sometimes with outside support and on occasions totally on its own. There is a name for this Frankenstein’s monster and it is known as jihad — a narrow, self-seeking interpretation of an otherwise lofty and ethereal religious concept. The struggle embedded in jihad — according to most scholars and not semi-literate clerics — is self-improvement. Instead, this has turned into a spectator sport where private militias carry out state objectives in the region and within the land of the pure.
This trajectory is an old one. It did not happen overnight nor was it a ploy of the Unites States and other powers to get Pakistan into a royal mess. In 1948, ‘jihadis’ from the tribal regions started with the battle of Kashmir that continues to date. Conventional wars or private ‘jihad’ efforts have brought neither glory to Pakistan nor relief for the Kashmiris, most of whom are sick of India and Pakistan treating their land and rights as national fiefs. […]

Toxic narratives

Raza Rumi

Al Qaeda’s plan for the region will succeed if Islamabad does not take stock of the deep penetration of its ideology into the folds of Pakistani society 

Clerics representing the Taliban listen to a reporter Clerics representing the Taliban listen to a reporter

The charade of talks being played by Pakistan’s major political parties, media and perhaps sections of the permanent establishment stands exposed. The prime minister, after giving a hard hitting speech in the Parliament, adopted the path of appeasement and appointed a committee to negotiate. The Pakistani faction of the Taliban movement – Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – appointed a few sympathizers as its nominees. The charismatic star Imran Khan was one of them, but he refused to negotiate on behalf of TTP despite advancing their case for the last few years. With no time frame and unclear terms of reference the so-called talks have foundered on the rocks of grim reality: the Pakistani state continues to give space to violent operations of TTP.

In the past two weeks, there have been more than 17 attacks of various kinds sometimes accepted by the TTP and at other times disowned. But groups that have owned the attacks are part of the network or affiliates of the loose network comprising TTP. There are at least three dozen small and big groups that are linked to the TTP. Many are off-shoots of state sponsored jihad outfits but have turned rogue or gained some measure of autonomy. This is why the key question that has dogged the talks is if any agreement between TTP appointed negotiators and the government would be accepted by all and sundry. The emerging consensus in the country is that it would not hold and violence would continue.

A chilling example of this syndrome was the admission of Mohmand Agency Taliban that last week they had killed 23 Frontier Corps (FC) soldiers who were kidnapped from Shongari checkpost in the tribal region in 2010.  A day later, a valiant Major of Pakistan Army was also killed. The brazen attacks on the law enforcement agencies have continued despite the much celebrated intent of the TTP to talk. The strategy of talking to ‘our own people’ as popularized by Imran Khan and other right wing parties therefore is backfiring. The Sharif government vacillating between the noises of tough action and appeasement scared of backlash in the Punjab as well as losing the right wing vote bank does not help matters either. Sharif’s dilemma is related to his popular base in the Punjab which his party does not want to lose at any cost. But there is more method to this madness. […]

February 25th, 2014|Published in The Friday Times|0 Comments