Opposing Views on Talks with TTP
03 April, 2014
By Asif Haroon Raja
Anti-peace lobby is making hue and cry as to why the government is insisting on holding talks with the TTP when the hands of its new leader Maulana Fazlullah are dripping in blood of people of Swat and surroundings and is a captive of Afghan government. They argue that it is pointless to hold talks with Fazlullah who has a history of breaking deals and had terrorized Swat. Those suggesting dialogue with slaughterers are termed as insane.
Anti-peace lobbies say that closure of NATO supply routes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) by PTI has antagonized the US but failed to appease the TTP. They say that TTP instead of reciprocating government's goodwill gesture of unconditional talks martyred Maj Gen Sanaullah, attacked a church in Peshawar, killed police commandoes in Karachi, slaughtered 23 FC soldiers, attacked military and civilian targets including district courts Islamabad to disrupt talks. They argue that military power must be demonstrated to the adversary so that it begs for talks. They are pressing the government to deliver the hammer with full force to make them surrender and then hold talks from a position of strength.
Anti-Taliban group complain that peddlers of hate and destruction have striven to impose Shariah upon others using coercive, cruel and violent methods. Instead of reforming the society by endearing to influence the wayward and weak Muslims and guiding them to become practicing Muslims through preaching and demonstrating strength of character, honesty, tolerance, amiability, generosity and humility, the militants have been resorting to cruelty and terrorism to terrorize the people and force them to accept their brand of Islam, which they project is the real Islam.
Pro-fight elements consider drone a useful weapon to kill terrorists hiding in far off places and go to the extent of claiming that residents of FATA love drones and view drones as a good deterrent against terrorists.
Those favoring talks counter their arguments by saying that the security forces have been fighting the militants for over a decade without achieving any results and in the process, civilians, Army, police have suffered well over 40,000 fatalities and Pakistan has lost over $80 billion. They say, other than Sri Lankan and Colombian insurgencies, no insurgency could be resolved anywhere in the world through force and ultimately had to rely on dialogue to end the conflict. They quote the example of US led ISAF having used excessive force for over 12 years has finally decided to quit and is seeking dialogue with the Taliban to arrive at a political settlement.
Pro-peace groups see drone as the biggest obstruction in the way of peace and say that people of FATA, particularly women, children and elderly people have contracted mental diseases because of hovering drones. They feel that the US purposely uses this weapon to trigger terrorism and scuttle peace process. They quote examples of Nek Muhammad killed by a drone soon after he signed a peace deal, Bajaur seminary struck by a missile in October 2006 when peace deal was about to be inked, pro-talks TTP leader Waliur Rahman droned on May 30, 2013, Hakeemullah Mehsud killed by a drone on November 1, 2013 when he had consented to take part in peace talks. They say, third hand helped by anti-talks lobby is hell-bent to fail the talks.
Politico-Religious Leaders/Scholars sympathize with the cause of militants since they too yearn for Shariah. Enlightened Islamists argue that despite the fact that it is clearly enshrined in the constitution that Islamic Republic of Pakistan will be run in accordance with Quran and Sunnah, the seculars who have ruled the country for the last 66 years, have governed the country on the basis of Westminster model of democracy and Anglo-Saxon form of judicial system. Recommendations of Islamic Council of Ideology made each year have never been debated in the Parliament, what to talk of implementing them. They say, if the seculars have the right to flout the constitution, why the Islamists should be censured for demanding Islamic system of governance and judiciary?
They suspect that God forbid if Pakistan is invaded and conquered by USA, our liberal class will become collaborators and welcome the invaders with open arms and garland them as liberators having saved them from the clutches of savages bent upon imposing their will by imposing horrific Shariah. They say that it is these hateful militants who would eventually stand up and fight the aggressors to liberate their homeland as they have done in Afghanistan and Iraq and forced them to quit.
Militants condone their aggressive acts under the cover of religion, saying they have a noble agenda of establishing Shariah in the country for the betterment of the poor. Misusing the name of Islam, they exploit the poverty of the youth hailing from the deprived class and mislead them to become militants and suicide bombers and kill Muslims.
The great majority which comprises of the deprived class, groaning under the weight of poverty, illiteracy and insecurity and fed up of arrogance of proud pursed elites, is conservative and Islam loving. They hate the elite class and consider our rulers as American collaborators slavishly playing US game. Talibanisation in their view is a backlash to the American centric policies pursued by our rulers to protect their interests rather than safeguard Pakistan interests. They fear that Islamic Republic of Pakistan is being turned into an American satellite.
Those driven by ignorance, or half-baked knowledge of Islam, or fear, believe that the extremist groups have taken up militancy in order to get rid of anti-poor western systems of governance and justice, and to usher in real Islam in Pakistan for the betterment of the downtrodden. While doing so, they ignore the fact that the whole social fabric has been severely traumatized. Over a period of time, they have begun to realize that Islam preach peace, tolerance, brotherhood, fraternity and shun violence, bigotry and bloodshed as espoused by Taliban.
The Ulema belonging to Wafaqul Madaras are now unanimous in declaring suicide attacks as un-Islamic. All religious leaders do not subscribe to violence and say that Quran clearly spells out that murder of one innocent human being is equivalent to murder of entire humanity. Saudi Arabia's grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh has recently stated that killing oneself is a grave crime and a grave sin and those who kill themselves with explosives are criminals and are moving fast to hell. 300 Ulema belonging to Deoband have also declared suicide attacks as haram.
Their verdicts should impel TTP leaders to introspect whether it was right to train teenage boys as suicide bombers and deceivingly making them believe that no sooner they will blow themselves up, they will be welcomed by Hoors and taken to paradise. The verdict must have embarrassed TTP whose spokesman Azam Tariq is on record having stated that 'Our Ulema have termed suicide attacks as an elite form of Jihad, which has made the Mujahideen invincible'. Misusing the name of Islam, the trainers have been exploiting the poverty of the boys hailing from downtrodden class and misleading them to kill Muslims.
The debate whether to hold talks or fight the militants with full force has not subsided despite the fact that a beginning has been made and some progress made in talks. Although one month ceasefire announced by the TTP expired on 31 March and TTP leaders are divided over the issue whether to extend it or renew militancy, chances are that ceasefire will be extended. A safe venue for future talks in settled areas of KP will also be designated. Although the pro-war lobbies are still skeptical, the government and TTP committee are quite optimistic and say very soon the nation will hear good news.
The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst and columnist. firstname.lastname@example.org