APC Meeting (Daily Times)

Will Al Qaeda inspired Jihadis give peace a chance?

“Give peace a chance” is indeed what the people of Pakistan want and this feeling was expressed in the insipid resolution of the All Parties Conference (APC). But nobody asked the question: are the Pakistani and Afghan Jihadi groups willing to give peace a chance? And if they do what it would cost to the people of Pakistan?

But first consider the myth of consensus resolution and these facts: all parties participated except the major political parties of Balochistan, which was a blow to the APC, as it clearly shows that Baloch leaders are not willing to be part of a conference which had a single point agenda – to develop a national consensus against the external threat; Mehmood Khan Achakzai, who lives at the Southern border of Afghanistan from where Afghan Taliban operate, commented that ‘if ISI wants, peace can be restored in Afghanistan within a month’ was more hard-hitting than Admiral Mullen’s accusation which provoked the anti-American reaction and need for APC; and that Mian Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the second biggest party, rightly called for introspection and posed the question, why the world is blaming us if there is nothing wrong with us?

ISI chief General Pasha as expected reiterated that his agency has no links with the Haqqani network, but at the same time admitted that we only talk to the businessmen Haqqani ‘cousins.’ He also said that America should talk to the Haqqani group. Now these two statements do not convincingly support the denial of links. Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Ashfaq Kayani reportedly laid down the Army’s point of view regarding post-US withdrawal Afghanistan’s dangerous situation and the interest of Pakistan. It is hard to dispute his assessment that the 250,000 Afghan army personnel would not be able to maintain peace in a society that is fragmented like a broken windscreen.

But that is where our agreement ends. The army’s assessment to support Afghan Taliban in the hope that they will play a pro-Pakistan role in the power struggle once the US forces withdraw, may be right, but it would be dangerous for the people of Afghanistan. Any takeover of Afghanistan or its Southern belt by Taliban is not in the interest of the people of Pakistan. Taliban’s success would strengthen the Pakistani Taliban and their associate Jihadi organisations. Once again all the Pakistani extremist Islamic militants would be able to establish their training base in Afghanistan. Now that brings us to the basic question that are the so-called ‘our people’ meaning TTP and other Jihadi groups willing to give peace a chance. Haven’t the army and government tried it many times only to find that the space provided by the peace agreements gave them a chance to regroup and strengthen their network?

Critics of military action against militant Islamic outfits should answer some questions before initiating a peace dialogue: What do you do when a group of people bomb barbers 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 girl’s schools and force young girls to wear ‘burqas’ under duress? What do you do when they kill you because you are a Shia or an Ahmadi? What do you do when the world view of these Jihadis is that the time for the Ghizwa-e-Hind has arrived and to eventually conquer the world to spread Islam? What do you do when instead of convincing other people in a civilized manner, they enforce their brand of Sharia through the barrel of a gun?

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 a 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 Sharia 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. Some politicians who attended the APC are saying that when the Americans are talking to Talibans, why we should be fighting? Important point they miss is that for the Americans it may be their strategy to exit from an expensive war, but for us there would be no exit. Instead the extremists will be encouraged to spread their brand of Islam in Pakistan. When the Soviet forces had withdrawn because of internal economic problems, change of policy and resistance fully supported by the Pakistan army, US, China and Saudi Arabia, the narcissist Taliban started believing that they defeated a super power single-handedly. Belief in this myth has encouraged Islamic terrorism around the world.

TTP is running Islamic Emirates of Waziristan – a parallel fiefdom — in the name of 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 Ladin. 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 their power. In the first place vacillating policy of the government was to support the Taliban and their allies covertly and oppose them overtly. APC resolution which has been passed in reaction to the US pressure is one such example.

The basic premise on this narrative is that we are fighting America’s war and have sacrificed 35000 people and suffered damages of $70 billion. This mantra is repeated ad nauseam by most politicians and agencies embedded journalists. Yes we have suffered these losses but not for America, these sacrifices have been made to save the people of Pakistan from Talibanisation and to clear the mess created by the perfidy national security policy.

So to give peace a chance the terrorist organisations 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. The APC should have resolved that we are all against the Americans interference in our internal affairs. And at the same time we are equally averse to the religious militants dictating our way of life at gun point. We believe in democracy and freedom and the Islamists are most welcome to adopt the democratic means to promote their ideals. (ayazbabar@gmail.com)


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