Unfortunately, there is no sequencing of the existentialist problems faced by the country. The most serious threats to the country are terrorism by the Pakistani Taliban and their Al Qaeda inspired associates and the Balochistan militant separatist movement. They should be sequenced in that order. The government and judiciary wrangling of power and the corruption/inefficiency of all the governments – federal and provincial – to me are third and fourth issues on the list of priorities.
Attack on the military rescue team near Wazirabad and the killing of NWFP jail officials, who were being trained in Lahore, shows that the terrorists are now expanding their area of operation. It also shows the strong linkage between the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the ‘Punjabi Taliban.’ Many of the apologists of Taliban have not raised any voice against these killings. They have not taken out a procession or organised a sit-in on the killing of Pakistan security personnel and attack on villages by the Pakistani Taliban who have now camped in Afghanistan. The same is true with the political parties in the government, except Awami National Party, which openly speaks against these terrorists. Around 500 local party officials of ANP have been killed by the Taliban and their associates.
To give apologists of the Taliban and Jihadi groups among the politicians and journalists the benefit of doubt let’s presume that either they are politically naïve or they are suffering from Alzheimer’s. Their usual refrain is that the Taliban’s terrorism would go away if the government stops taking foreign dictation and stops military operation. Recently, Imran Khan blamed the liberals of Pakistan for supporting the military operation in FATA. He said that he was against the military operation against “its own people” whether it is in Balochistan, Bangladesh, or Waziristan. (What is the difference between Bangladesh 1971 military operation, the fourth military operation in Balochistan and the on-going operation in FATA area against Taliban, is a lengthy subject which I would defer for some other day).
Keeping in view the sequencing of problems faced by Pakistan let’s focus on the spreading terrorism in the country. To analyse the situation one has to first determine what are the objectives of the Afghan Taliban and the local Jihadi organisations? And then see whether these objectives are reconcilable with the interest of the majority of Pakistanis.
Once burdened with power to rule the country, the critics of the military operation against TTP and its associates, would have to analyse the issue dispassionately and realistically. Their government’s ultimate responsibility would be to protect the democratic rights of the people and work towards raising their living standard. Imran Khan and other religious political parties cannot come to power unless the democratic system survives. They would not be able to rise to power under the TTP led Islamic Caliphate.
So let’s see what major actors of this sad saga want:
- 1. People of Pakistan: End of Talibanisation & religious extremism in the country; Stop interference in Afghanistan; Protect Pakistan’s legitimate interests in Afghanistan; Good relations with the Afghan government and US; normalisation of relations with India.
- 2. Local Taliban & Jihadi organisations: Control over all the tribal areas to begin with & enforcement of their version of Shari’a by force; Support Afghan Taliban’s war against US and Afghan government; Fight with Pakistani forces if they try to stop militants from joining the Afghan war and entering India for terrorist attacks; Continue support to Al Qaeda; Bring down Afghanistan government; oust US and NATO forces from Afghanistan; and liberate Kashmir through an armed struggle.
- 3. Afghan Taliban: Take over Afghanistan by force and establish a government with their brand of Shari’a; Resist any move by Pakistan to stop them from using its territory as a hinterland.
- 4. Al Qaeda: Help Taliban in restoring their government in Afghanistan; Continue using Afghanistan as their headquarters to export Islamic revolution through the barrel of the gun to the world; Bring down Pakistani government which does not support Al Qaeda’s ideals.
Now if we look at these demands keeping in view the interest of the people of Pakistan, it is clear that whether we listen to the Americans or we make indigenous policies, no compromise can be made with the Taliban and Jihadis. Let’s examine them:
First, the people of Pakistan are Muslims but they do not approve extremism. They support democracy, which in essence is pluralistic and means tolerance of dissent.
Second, it does not suit Pakistan to help Afghan Taliban who wants to enforce religious fascism in Afghanistan.
Third, Pakistan has to stop interference in Afghanistan. There can be no two views about it. The UN Resolution 1373 says: “Decides also that all States shall: Refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts, including by suppressing recruitment of members of terrorist groups and eliminating the supply of weapons to terrorists.”
True, Pakistan should neither support the Taliban nor the US & NATO forces. But this would only be possible if Taliban stop using Pakistan as their base and join the Afghan democratic process.
Fourth, Pakistan’s legitimate interest can only be protected in Afghanistan if there is a stable government in Kabul. A prerequisite of achieving this objective is to find a regional solution instead of Pakistan-India proxy war in Afghanistan.
Fifth, we have to have good relations with the Afghan government. Those who suggest that we should stop supporting the Karzai government tend to forget it is recognised by the entire world and the UN.
Sixth, Pakistan cannot afford to have adversarial relations with the US & other Western countries. There is no reason that we should be fighting with them. Almost the entire economy of Pakistan is dependent on these countries. Over 50% exports go to these countries, leave alone the investment and loans which we get from them. Any conflict with them would lead to sanctions that would mean closure of industries and immense damage to economy – directly hurting the poor.
Lastly, no country is supporting the Al Qaeda agenda because it is not in sync with 21st century political, social and economic values. Also their terrorist means and Salafist ideology is unacceptable to the over-whelming Muslims of the world.
Apologists of Taliban’s should realise that no matter who is ruling it’s high time that these terrorists should be dealt with. There should be no confusion that it is the agenda of the people of Pakistan. It is what Pakistan needs. Just because Americans are saying the same thing does not mean we should foolishly tell the Taliban that we are on their side. There are no two options. Of course talks with local and Afghan Taliban is possible if they renounce violence and join the democratic process in their respective countries. The interest of the people of Pakistan should be at the top of our list instead of anti-government and anti-American emotions. (firstname.lastname@example.org)