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Pakistan: Appeasing butchers

Talking to the TTP

Monday 4 October 2021, by siawi3


Appeasing butchers

Usama Khilji

Published October 4, 2021 - Updated about 4 hours ago

THE prime minister in a TV interview has said that the government is trying to negotiate a peace deal with the TTP wherein they will lay down arms and become “normal citizens”. He has also called recent TTP attacks on Pakistani soldiers “just a spate of attacks”.

Clearly, the life of Pakistani citizens is not worth much to the PM who has continued to advocate for negotiations with terrorist groups — Pakistani or Afghan Taliban. Some Pakistani militant groups have offered ceasefire, but their crimes must never be forgiven by the state.

Where are the anti-terrorism laws? What are the anti-terror courts doing? What happened to the victory of the military in former Fata where terrorists were said to be defeated and millions were displaced for this purpose (they became internally displaced persons).

Terrorism wreaked havoc in Pakistan for nearly a decade, killing over 80,000 Pakistani civilians, policemen, soldiers, and children. What gives the PM the right to forgive butchers so easily?

What gives the PM the right to forgive TTP?

Pakistan has a strict set of dedicated anti-terrorism laws, an anti-terrorism force, and anti-terrorism courts. Why are these not being used to try terrorists in courts of law? Why are criminals, murderers, extortionists, arsonists, brainwashers of children, and enemies of the people not being tried by the criminal justice system?

Forgiving the TTP sets the wrong precedent. It sends out the message that those who commit crimes against the state and its citizens can be forgiven. Then what’s stopping others from taking up arms against the state and its citizens? Will the same gratuitous amnesty also be extended to other groups opposing the state? Will at least peaceful movements be allowed to function or will elected MNAs such as Ali Wazir who lost 17 family members to TTP attacks continue to be imprisoned for their speeches while murderers and butchers are allowed to roam free?

More importantly, who will guarantee peace and security to citizens once those who believe in violence to achieve their aims are allowed to roam free?

Read: Where has the govt gone wrong in its plan to hold talks with the TTP?

Pakistan’s supposed strategic considerations for supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan and the constant push by the current government for recognition and working with the Afghan Taliban is concerning, especially considering the known links they have with the TTP. Several TTP prisoners in Afghanistan have been freed in the past month, and this has coincided with strengthening of their rank and file in Waziristan and other newly merged districts of KP. This is demonstrated by the rise in attacks on Pakistan’s soldiers and policemen in the region, as well as the resumption of extortion by Taliban groups in South Waziristan where they are reportedly charging a percentage of contract money from contractors, traders, transporters, etc.

The withdrawal of imperialist American and Nato forces in Afghanistan must not mean support for extremist political militants that want to impose their interpretation of religion on all citizens, as is already being seen in Afghanistan with restrictions on girls’ education and ban on shaving by men in some areas. Before such ideologies that violate basic rights of citizens gain further ground here, the state must play its role to maintain its writ.

There needs to be justice for the murderers of the 144 children and adults killed in Army Public School, Peshawar. There needs to be justice for Malala Yousafzai who was shot in the head for speaking up for her right to go to school, and continues to be in hours-long surgeries to fix the damage those bullets caused her when she was a child. There needs to be justice for the widows and children of police personnel and soldiers who gave up their lives fighting terrorists.

There needs to be justice for Aitzaz Hasan who restrained a suicide bomber from attacking his school and lost his life while doing so. There needs to be justice for the shoppers killed while shopping for Eid, lawyers killed while fighting in courts, politicians killed while campaigning such as from the Bilour and Bhutto families, and countless political workers who were killed only for exercising their political rights. The religious minorities who were killed while worshipping deserve justice and safety. The Turi tribe in Kurram, the Salarzais of Bajaur, the Bangash of Orakzai fought successfully to keep the Taliban out of their areas. Their sacrifices need to be respected; these are the Pakhtuns worth celebrating, not the Haqqanis who indulged in militancy.

Militants deserve to be arrested, tried in court, and punished for committing crimes against the state and its citizens. The prime minister must respect the law of the land and the wounds of its citizens when solving the terrorism problem. Rule of law must be a fundamental part of any political solution to end militancy, rather than seeing only two extremes of military operations or surrender as viable options.

The writer is director of Bolo Bhi, an advocacy forum for digital rights.



Govt in talks with TTP groups for reconciliation process: PM Imran

Published October 1, 2021 - Updated 3 days ago

Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks to TRT World during an interview. — TRT Screengrab

Prime Minister Imran Khan has said the government is in talks with some groups of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), seeking a reconciliation.

“There are different groups which form the TTP and some of them want to talk to our government for peace. So, we are in talks with them. It’s a reconciliation process,” he said during an interview with the TRT World.

When asked if the government was asking them to lay down arms, the PM responded: “Yes, we forgive them and they become normal citizens”.

The interviewer then asked why the TTP was conducting attacks on Pakistan’s security forces when they were in talks with the government. To this, the premier said it was just a “spate of attacks”.

“We might not reach some sort of conclusion or settlement in the end but we are talking,” he added.

Responding to another query on whether the Afghan Taliban were acting as mediators between the TTP and Pakistan, the premier said: “Since the talks were taking place in Afghanistan, so in that sense, yes.”

PM Imran reiterated he didn’t believe in military solutions. “I am anti-military solution, and as a politician, I believe political dialogue is the way ahead.”

He said dialogue was the only way out in the case of Afghanistan also.

Earlier in September, President Arif Alvi had suggested that the Pakistani government could consider giving an amnesty to those members of the TTP who had not remained involved in “criminal activities” and who laid down their weapons and agreed to adhere to the Pakistani Constitution.

Such an amnesty could be one of the ways to “establish peace”, the president had said.

His remarks were followed by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi expressing similar sentiments in an interview on Sept 15. He said the government would be “open to giving” a pardon to members of the TTP if they promised not to get involved in terrorist activities and submit to the Pakistani Constitution.

“But as long as they do not come and start undertaking terrorist activities [in Pakistan]. That is our concern,” the minister had emphasised.



Talking to the TTP

Fahd Husain

Published October 2, 2021 - Updated 2 days ago

PRIME MINISTER Imran Khan says the government is holding negotiations with the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) aimed at persuading its fighters to lay down arms and reintegrate into society as peaceful and law-abiding citizens. Does he have the right to do so?

Of course he does, you might say. Last time we checked, he was still the prime minister of this country. And that’s what PMs do — make such hard decisions. Isn’t this what their public mandate is all about? To make such calls on behalf of the nation regardless of what the public opinion might say? After all, Tony Blair as the prime minister of UK went against the overwhelming public opinion in his country to support and join US president George W. Bush’s war against Iraq.

So when PM Khan tells Ali Mustafa of Turkish news channel TRT in his interview, which airs today, that Pakistan is indeed holding talks with the TTP in Afghanistan, he is finally confirming in no uncertain terms similar broad hints dropped earlier by President Arif Alvi and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. If the PM then is not unveiling any national security secrets, and if he is not violating the mandate of the office he holds, and if he is not taking a step that has never been taken before — speaking with the enemy, that is — then should the nation really be concerned?

Forgive those who bathed this society in blood? The momentous decision cannot be taken behind closed doors.

As a matter of fact, yes.

Here’s why: TTP has not waged a bloody war just against the government, but against Pakistani society. In this bloodletting, no place was spared — office, school, mosque, shrine, and bazaar; and no one was spared — officers, politicians, women, old men, children and toddlers. The wounds run deep. They are raw, yet. Time heals, but not so fast.

Forgive those who bathed this society in blood? The momentous decision cannot be taken behind closed doors by shadowy figures armed with a rationale that has not been nourished by public opinion. The real issue here is not whether Pakistan should accord such forgiveness to the TTP — no ladies and gentlemen, not at all — the real issue is whether the government has the moral right to do so without hearing what the people of Pakistan have to say about it.

As emotive issues go, this one is a sizzler. That too with long-term consequences. No government can, or should, go it alone. The PTI government has got off to a bad start by leaking this consequential information in fits and starts without first laying out the context and injecting transparency into the matter.

But it is still not too late.

Now that the prime minister has officially let the cat out of the bag, the government may want to frame the issue in a proper and well-deliberated context before it begins to take a life of its own. It has, in fact, already started to veer off. With the government now desperately trying to explain away the prime minister’s announcement through sound bites, it appears to have no road map on how to steer the debate towards a direction that it may have planned to. If it had planned to.

Does it have any good options?

Yes. A few essentials are required: (1) following the prime minister’s interview, the foreign minister should give a policy statement on the floor of parliament explaining the rationale, progress and methodology of the talks with the TTP (2) the floor should be opened for debate in both the Senate and the National Assembly and every party head in parliament should state his or her position on the matter (3) this will automatically trigger a national debate in the media which the government should monitor very carefully (4) the government should then table a resolution in parliament that outlines the basic parametres of the proposed talks and their agenda. The resolution should be negotiated with the opposition before being tabled so it can be adopted with a broad consensus (5) then the government should conduct these negotiations with the confidence of having a broad spectrum of public opinion backing it.

Editorial: TTP amnesty?

But before all of this, it needs to get its basic argument sorted out. The logic peddled all of Friday by the government’s official and unofficial spokespersons was dangerously superficial. Their argument: since the United States finally ended up on the negotiating table with the Afghan Taliban (TTA) after fighting with them for two decades and sustaining heavy casualties, why cannot Pakistan do the same with the TTP?

The problem with the argument: you cannot equate the US-TTA analogy with Pakistan-TTP logic for the simple reason that the US was an occupation force in Afghanistan and the TTA was fighting for its homeland against the occupiers. TTP on the other hand is fighting the legitimate state of Pakistan and its terror campaign is an act of sedition, not of liberation like that of the TTA. The government people should be very very careful drawing such recklessly trivial analogies to explain their desire to negotiate with the TTP.

This becomes all the more important at a time when the US government, legislators and the media have begun a process of painting Pakistan as the ‘villain’ primarily responsible for sustaining the TTA for the last two decades. The last thing the government needs is to botch up on the domestic front too by mishandling the TTP issue thereby opening itself up to a two-front offensive. It has already sapped its own political strength by fanning incessant confrontation with opponents and ensuring the absence of an essential working relationship. If the TTP issue is also dealt with in such a confrontational ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ manner, it could dilute the effectiveness of our policy and weaken the writ of the state.

Competence may have become a luxury in Pakistan, but can we please, at the very least, hold on to common sense?

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Islamabad.