As expected the heat on the Northern front is rising. President Bush and his military elite have declared that they have the right to strike inside the Pakistani border on Taliban and pro-Taliban locations. The US forces which have been using air power for the last one year to strike what they claim were Taliban’s hideouts; have for the first time used land forces to cross the border. These so-called ‘Rambos’ killed innocent people and then said “Oh! Sorry our intelligence was faulty.” The only good news is that NATO commanders have said that they do not support the policy of hot pursuit and send their forces in Pakistan.
After the public outrage in Pakistan the ruling political leaders protested but remaining within the limits of ground realities. Admiral Mike Mullen was rebuffed by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani appropriately. There are reports that the Corp Commanders meeting has decided to hit back if there is any intrusion. One only hopes that the conflict with the Americans remains to the level of trade of statements and does not come to an armed conflict.
While President Bush’s administration may be getting desperate to show some results in the seven years’ war in Afghanistan, the problem is that there is a bi-partisan consensus among the US leadership which is contesting the elections. Both Republican and Democrat Candidates are spitting fire. Both agree that they will use their right to strike in Pakistan if the Taliban continue using the tribal area as their safe haven.
In this geo-political situation some over zealous nationalists are suggesting reckless reactions to the US intrusions. If we want to protect the interest of the teeming millions of Pakistanis, then confrontation with the world’s only super power would be foolish. National pride can only be protected if we start accepting the bitter fact that Afghan and local Taliban are equally responsible for the present mess we are in. Many analysts take refuge in history and say that these people were created by the CIA and ISI. It is a fact. But it is also a fact that that was of the eighties, when American interests were different and Ziaul Haq foolishly sucked them into this war.
Today CIA is against the same so-called Jihadis (who are now called Taliban) and ISI has to withdraw its support to these people. The recent army onslaught on Taliban’s hideouts in FATA and PATA shows that the army has changed its old policy. One can then presume that barring a few in the establishment who are ideologically committed with the Taliban, the majority must be on board with the changed policy.
It is indeed tragic that many innocent people of the tribal areas are suffering everyday, because of this on going war. The Taliban and their rightist and leftist apologists are using this to gain the public sympathy claiming that Pakistan army is killing its own people. Hardly anybody shows the courage in all the celebrated talk shows to condemn the Taliban for bringing this misery to their people; to analyse who are these people, why they are reluctant to stop interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan; why they refuse to accept the dissent; why they kill anybody who disagrees with them (they have killed over 150 Maliks who wanted to broker peace with the government).
The other day three elected representatives from FATA area said in Hamid Mir’s Capital Talk that the government should give them authority and six month’s time and they can bring peace to the area. There demand is just but the problem is the way things are we don’t have six months. We have to take into account the bitter fact that time is running out and that whether we like it or not the ground reality is that Americans are a huge factor in this war. Their assessment is that all the previous accords have given a breather to Taliban and their supporters to re-organise and recuperate. The experience is that when the government had signed a peace accord with local Taliban a couple of years back, they took over the control of most of FATA area and also spread their wings to Swat. Their apologists forget the summary trials and killings of people by the Taliban in those areas, collection of tax from the people and establishing their writ as against the writ of the government of Pakistan.
Time and again the PPP leadership has said that they would let the parliament decide the crucial policies and would try to evolve an all-parties consensus on the Taliban issue. As it is evident this means discussing our relations with Afghanistan and USA and our strategy to deal with the spiraling Talibanisation in the North. But before doing that, government should make a parliamentary committee with sufficient representation of Pukhtunkhawa and FATA members to draft a policy for putting it before the parliament for discussion.
We have heard the Taliban’s demands and their declaration of independence, which include Jihad against NATO and Afghan forces, which is against the foreign policy of Pakistan. Now this time the government should put its demands before the Taliban and the FATA representatives. The main demands should be:
- There would be no intrusion in Afghanistan by local Taliban in support of Afghanistan’s Taliban movement. (Let the Afghans settle their own problem).
- No Afghan Taliban should be allowed to come to Pakistan and their present establishment should be closed.
- Taliban should disband their force and the government should make arrangement to rehabilitate them in normal economic activity.
- The laws made in Pakistan with the participation of FATA and Pukhtunkhawa elected members should be accepted and Taliban brand of Shariah would not be acceptable.
- The Taliban should declare any area as no go area for any Pakistani including our forces.
Government should publicise these demands consistently through the media as a campaign so that people are well aware that nothing unreasonable is being demanded by it. If these demands are not acceptable to them, then no peaceful solution is possible in the region.
It should be understood by the people who support them that unless the conditions stated above are not accepted by Taliban the threat to Pakistan would continue. Our dangerous old policy of nurturing such elements as an extension of our Afghan and India foreign policy has to be changed diametrically. Any other approach would lead us to increased destablisation and economic crunch, which would be crushing the people of Pakistan. Fate of millions of poor people of Pakistan cannot be held hostage by a few thousand extremists. They believe that medieval ideology can be imposed through globalised jihad on the Muslims of the world. (firstname.lastname@example.org)