One of the most important questions on the day General Musharraf finally passed on his military command to General Kiyani at a party in Islamabad was: Will the new COAS be steadfast to his predecessor’s tough policy against the terrorists? I think there is no alternative for any military commander but to support the government in curbing the militancy endangering a prosperous and modern Pakistan. General Kiyani had also expressed his resolve on this issue a few days back.
The good thing is that there is no confusion at the top on this issue. Some critics would like to add hastily that it is being done on America’s bidding. Their observation may be correct, but then such major policies are not based on one factor. There are a number of reasons both internal and external. The circumstances also force the governments in a direction some times reluctantly.
The questions our critics against the military action in Waziristan and Swat should answer are: What do you do when a group of people bomb barber shops because they want you to sport a beard? What do you do when they blow up the music CDs shops? What do you do when they stone women to death in the name of religion? What do you do when they slit throats declaring people government officials or agents? What do you do when they bomb girls’ schools and force young girls to wear ‘burqas’ under duress?
What do you do when instead of convincing other people in a civilized manner, they enforce their brand of salafist Sharia through the barrel of a gun?
First the political analysts and Pundits were criticizing the government for not taking notice of the growing Talibanisation. Now that the government has picked up arms against the likes of Baitullah Mehsud and Maulana Fazlullah (popularly know as Maulana Radio), they are not happy. They are saying that the government should not have picked up arms against its own people and the matter should be resolved through negotiations. We saw the same change of stance before and after Lal Masjid operation.
There is no doubt that all armed conflicts have been eventually resolved in the world through talks. But the timing of talks is always important. Can a government enter into talks with the militants of any brand from the position of weakness? Can a government talk to people who feel that it is their divine duty to enforce Sharia and anybody who stops them is an infidel? Can the government convince them to preach their brand of Shariah, remaining within the bounds of the law of the country? Should the people of the 21st century modern
state accept the value system of medieval period just because the nation is held hostage at gun point?
In the first place when some people pick up arms leaving the democratic means to advocate their agenda, no tactician would advise to rush to the negotiation table. You have to first establish that you have the power to speak in their language so that they are convinced that the state is not powerless. Having established that one enters into dialogue. Many of my colleagues are saying that when the government can enter into a deal with all the politicians who were accused of corruption, then why the spirit of national reconciliation is not being extended to Mehsud and Maulana Radio.
Baitullah and Fazlullah are running their parallel fiefdoms in the name if Islam. They have declared Jihad against their own country. All these groups, who work independently and some time with each other’s support are directly or indirectly influenced by the doctrine of Jihad based on Sayyid Qutb, Mohammad Farag, Ayman al Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden. These theorists believe that it is important to wage a jihad against the governments in Muslim countries, who are considered secular by them.
There are, of course, a number of local reasons which have resulted in the unchecked growth of Fazlullah and Baitullah’s power. In the first place vacillating policy of the government was to support the Taliban and their allies covertly and opposed them overtly.
In Waziristan the government entered in a Jirga negotiated truce, but it was violated by the militants. Instead of stopping the to and fro movement of Taliban and their Al Qaeda supporters the tribal leaders started spreading Talibanisation to other areas of NWFP.
The truce was taken as weakness of the government. What should Pakistan do in this situation? Salim Khan, who lives only 70 km from Miramshah explains this predicament: “What Baitullah Mehsud does not understand is that “if the government would not stop the Afghan’s movement across the borders then the Americans and Afghanistan forces would bomb us.”
Now the naïve politicians like Imran Khan are saying that tribal people have always guarded our Northern frontiers so the Pakistan army should not fight them for establishing the writ of the government. Pakistan has paid a heavy price for giving the special status to tribal areas as maintained by the British. The porous borders have resulted in making Pakistan a market for smuggled goods, drugs and arms. To keep the tribal system going all governments allowed this dangerous game. This policy has created a vested interest which is now challenging Pakistan’s foreign policy and security concerns. They have also taken upon themselves to export their culture in the name of Shariah.
Those who want a compromise with Maulana Radio are right in saying that his support has grown in the absence of a government writ in Malakand district. People turned to him because he provided them security. Now law and order situation is also bad in Sindh, should the government allow MQM and Sindh tribal and feudal leaders to run a parallel government? Can these forces ask the government to withdraw from Karachi and the rest of Sindh by taking law enforcing agencies personnel hostage or by slitting their throats to make a horrible example? Would they like to stop women from voting? Can the country afford to provide safe haven to the Taliban and Al Qaeda? Can the country take the economic set back by adopting an anti-American and anti-west foreign policy? Should we sacrifice the economic prosperity of the people of Pakistan on the altar of religious extremists?
Answer to all these questions by a majority of Pakistanis would indeed be a big — NO! So the militants and terrorists have to surrender to the popular will of the people of Pakistan and no blackmailing in the name of religion and anti-Americanism should be accepted. We are all against the Americans interfering in our internal affairs. We believe in democracy and freedom and are equally averse to some militants dictating our way of life at gun point. They are most welcome to adopt the democratic means to promote their ideals. (firstname.lastname@example.org)