IT is a pity that the focus on Shahidullah Shahid’s remarks on cricket, quoted out of context by the media, has overshadowed his video message’s grimmer contents. The TTP spokesman’s 17-minute video recording spells out the Taliban’s political philosophy in clear terms and gives us the militant movement’s view of the state of Pakistan and the status in its eyes of the government and armed forces. The Taliban hold both in contempt. The recording dwells at length on the precondition for talks and their aim. There are three preconditions — the release of TTP prisoners, the pullout of security forces from the tribal areas and an end to drone strikes. Since, according to him, the government is not willing to accept two conditions, it is weak and insincere. As for the third condition, Nawaz Sharif had ‘begged’ America to stop the drone attacks. This grovelling revealed that the government and armed forces were America’s puppets. For the TTP, the preconditions were meant to gauge the government’s sincerity, and if the aim of the dialogue was other than the Sharia, then it was pointless.
Shahidullah Shahid denounced democracy, repeatedly spoke of ‘black Englishmen’ and threatened a wide variety of TTP enemies with death. But all said and done his talk showed the TTP leadership’s clarity of thinking. It knows who its enemies are, it vows revenge and is clear in its ultimate objective — the imposition of its version of Sharia. According to the TTP’s thinking, if the enforcement of Islamic law is possible through talks, so much the better; if not, then the TTP is ready to wage a ‘jihad’ which recognises no provincial or national boundaries. Does the government have the same kind of clarity in its policies, stance and public declarations? What does the government propose to achieve through talks? Can an elected, constitutional government betray its mandate and negotiate a compromise on democracy? The interview has spelled out the TTP’s stance and conditions. Will the government do the same?