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Smokers’ Corner: Good luck, gentlemen

Updated May 26, 2013 10:36am


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Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.—File Photo
Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.—File Photo

In a recent speech, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Parvez Kayani praised the nation for rejecting the threats of the extremists by coming out and voting in the May 11 general elections.

Within a month the COAS has made two speeches in which he has come out clean in reiterating the military’s narrative and stance regarding the menace of extremist insurgency and violence in the country.

Never has a leading military man been so clear and categorical in owning the ‘war against terrorism’ in Pakistan.

Not only did things in this respect remained vague, uncertain and muggy in the civilian political circles, the military too, whose men are on the frontlines of this vicious war, remained somewhat hesitant in fully defining Pakistan’s role in the conflict.

In spite of the fact that ever since 2002, thousands of Pakistani civilians, soldiers, policemen and politicians have been killed by the extremists, Pakistan’s civilian and military circles remained largely uncommitted and fuzzy about the required narrative that was needed to inform the nation and consequently attract its support for the war.

In the absence of such a narrative, the task fell on the laps of the populist electronic media and certain political parties.

Playing to the confusion set off by the unabashed acts of terror by the extremists and almost perversely explaining the war as an extension of ‘American imperialism’, the media and some opposition parties created exactly the kind of uncertainty and doubt that the COAS tried to counter in his speeches.

Rightly and timely, the COAS was more concerned about how a narrative generated by the populist media and the opposition parties about the war was now affecting the soldiers fighting an enigmatic and almost ghost-like enemy that is not rolling in from across the Indian border nor parachuting from the skies. It is emerging from within our own cities, towns and mountains.

Nevertheless, his recent statement has come at yet another intriguing period in the country’s topsy-turvy history.

In a few days time, two centre-right parties, the PML-N and the PTI, will be forming governments in the centre, the Punjab and the KP.

The parties that were part of the last ruling coalition, the PPP and the MQM, and under whom the military carried out various operations against the extremists, have been relegated to Sindh. Another anti-extremist outfit, the ANP, that too was part of the former coalition, has been wiped out in the KP after the May 11 elections.

Both PML-N and PTI have been strong advocates of holding peace talks and dialogue with the extremists.

The two’s strong showing in the Punjab and the KP in the May 11 elections now gives them enough democratic credibility and right to put their dialogue-theory into practice.

Of course, this will not be the first time that a civilian government would be entering into a major dialogue with the extremist outfits. The PPP-led coalition almost handed over Swat to them after one such dialogue and deal in 2009, until the deal was unabashedly broken by the extremists, and the military had to be sent in to wrest back the control of the area.

The extremists vented out their rage on the three main parties of the former ruling coalition by killing over a hundred of these parties’ supporters and leaders just before the May 11 elections. Even more painful was the collateral damage that occurred during the terror campaign in (mainly) Karachi and the KP.

That said the PML-N and PTI now have the mandate in the Parliament and in the Punjab and KP Provincial Assemblies to correctly claim the right to put into action what they believe is a better idea to win peace for the Pakistanis. Supposedly, the offer for a dialogue has come from the extremists, but only if parties such as the PML-N, PTI and JI are involved. Fair enough.

These parties should be given all the space and support that they require in this respect because they’ve earned it through the vote. But one will be watching with great interest how men like Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan negotiate with a rigid group of men who not only reject the Constitution of the country and democracy, but also consider a majority of Pakistanis to be false Muslims, if not outright heretics.

Eyes will be fixed more on Nawaz Sharif whose party, the PML-N, has the largest number of seats in the National and Punjab Assemblies.

Also, as a politician, he is far more seasoned, mature and perhaps more temperate, than the impulsive, inexperienced and somewhat brash, Khan.

If both these parties actually manage to make the extremists end their campaigns of terror, it will be nothing short of achieving a miracle.

But how much are they willing to compromise to achieve this?

Will the extremists be asked to join the mainstream scheme of things? If so, then as what? They hate shrines, CD shops, cinemas, even paan shops (!)

And what if the talks fail? Is there a Plan B?

Let’s hope peace does come and the extremists finally realise that when over 60pc Pakistanis poured to vote, it was a sign that they may be suffering from war fatigue but their trust in democracy is robust, now more than ever.

Also, both Mian Sahib and Khan must bear in mind that peace is achieved with honour and not at the expense of sullying the memory of the 50,000 Pakistanis killed in this war.

It is the people who elected your parties for stability and good governance and — this is more for Khan — not because of your fancy theories and whims.

Good luck to you both. And may win peace — either way.


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Comments (49) Closed

showz May 26, 2013 12:30pm

Finally an article by a "liberal" that avoids the usual rhetoric. A balanced viewpoint indeed, if only other "liberal conservatives" would look at things from this perspective.

malole May 26, 2013 04:49am
Let them give it a try. Right now they are all falling head over heels to talk to TTP. But pretty soon, one day, both the PML and PTI will come to senses that it is impossible to negotiate with marauders.
Guest May 26, 2013 06:19am
I like your statement "Right now they are all falling head over heels to talk to TTP." ....makes me wonder who won the elections?!
Hasan May 26, 2013 06:42am
The other day Shireen Mazari was on Talat Hussain's show along with JI's Ibrahim (head of JI KP), where she was claiming that PTI will disengage from US WoT and then will try to integrate TTP elements by holding talks with them. However when TH asked her how PTI will actually go about it, she was vague in her remarks. If a person like SM is inconclusive what to expect from others! As NFP said 'may peace win', however with these parties in govts seems highly unlikely...!
caz May 26, 2013 07:07am
The terrorists want power pure and simple. They want to impose a primitive ideology that does not have the solutions to the problems of a complex modern world. It is naive and to be in denial to think otherwise. Pakistan must bite the bullet of its miscreation in order to find practical solutions for the unfortunate people who inhabit this failed state.
Feroz May 26, 2013 07:14am
The parties that have been flag bearers of the Taliban have won the elections, congrats to them. That secular parties candidates were mowed down and not allowed to campaign due to threats, seems to be an inconsequential fact to many. In the next election the same fate may be shared by the current winners of TTP generosity. What goes around will come around.
asif May 26, 2013 07:42am
Imran Khan, educated at Atchison and Oxford, having built hospitals and educational institutions in Pakistan, and led his nascent party to great success is inexperienced and brash?
Ali S May 26, 2013 08:23am
The only party that was really 'mowed down' due to extremist threats was ANP (I'm not an ANP supporter, but I have to admit that they gave the most sacrifices and got nothing in return in terms of votes). PPP failed because of five years of horrifically incompetent governance and failure to deliver, period - get your head out of the sand and use some commonsense for once, if people don't get what they're promised they'll react and they did by restricting PPP to Sindh (where it has unconditional support of jiyalas). It has nothing to do with their secular stance - if that was so, no one would have come out to vote for PTI or PML-N either since the extremists openly declared war on the entire election and democratic process.
Capt C M Khan May 26, 2013 08:27am
These two parties are the BEARDLESS TTP/LEJ/LT. This was not ELECTION but SELECTION of TT and the establishment
Ali S May 26, 2013 08:30am
I voted for PTI, but I have to admit that my confidence in them was knocked down a notch when they handed KP's ministry of education to JI. Like NFP said, I do hope that whatever plans PTI and PML-N have to deal with this menace work out without having to bend over backwards too much. It's a good sign that the COAS has a clear-cut stance on this issue, because if these talks fail (and let's face it, there's a fair chance they will, though I hope it isn't so), it will be up to the military to clean up the mess caused by these politicians' hot air-fueled plans (like it happened in Swat). The life of a single Pakistani soldier is not worth dealing with these creatures.
tipu May 26, 2013 09:39am
Mian nawaz sharif has asked Maulan Sami ul haq to talk to taliban for peace,sami ul haq says that TTP are like my kids,iam their spiritual father and they will listen to me,,,well done both you,,one was waiting to come into power and the SPIrual father was waiting for TTp to slay 50,000 pakistanis,..what a shame.
citizen May 26, 2013 10:11am
It's a very complex situation. I think without an amicable resolution in Afghanistan and departure of americans, it will be very difficult to negotiate with TTP. In my opinion TTP take their sustenance from the war in Afghanistan and the whole narrative of 'Jihad'. untill and unless this narrative is not changed things will be difficult to change.
Nasir May 26, 2013 11:51am
The same who have always won Pakistani Elections. We all know the outcome of Peace talks, but still it needs to take place and with sincerety and not to give up any personal rights of civilian of Pakistan.
Baber Khan May 26, 2013 11:51am
OK...conceded that "dialogue" is a bad option with TTP, but what's the alternative? We have been fighting them for the last 10 years and failed to obliterate them.Even the only Super Power couldn't eradicate them on the other side of the border! Is it 20 more years and another 100,000 Pakistanis dead that you feel like suggesting as an alternative to "dialogue"?
Gooch May 26, 2013 11:53am
There is nothing wrong in being inexperienced and brash, in fact it seems to be the exact criteria required to be successful politician. Asif, u rightly point out that Imran has build hospitals, educational institutions and led his party to great success , is that not what pakistan needed in today's atmosphere? I can not recall the name of any other politician either in India or Pakistan who have achieved so much single handedly. By not giving Imran a straight majority in these elections, the people of Pakistan have let themselves down.
Waleed May 26, 2013 12:26pm
Asif, It takes time to become a seasoned and mature politician.
Raj May 26, 2013 01:02pm
Talk with ttp will earn them time to rebuild and then they will engulf nation then what Pakistan will do? Believe me military is not going to come to your rescue. They have hands to gather in glawes with ttp. Pakistani people will suffer.
kanwal May 26, 2013 01:09pm
PTI has lost me forever after giving the education ministry to JI. Its all over for me. If a party headed by Munawar Hasan, the Hudood Ordinance fame, i know how doomed we are now that it got the education department.
UlHaq May 26, 2013 02:08pm
Despite all his genuine intent, Imran Khan is a "useful idiot". He is basically supported by two groups of people: one, the majority right wing political cum extremist activists, who are supporting him just to take their ideological cause forward. The other group is the tiny (but vocal) minority, naive, burger group whose Pakistan starts from Islamabad and ends at Defence via the motorway (they take a flight to Karachi, which for them extends from the airport to clifton/defence via the shahra-e-faisal). The reality of today's Pakistan is that we don't need "useful idiots", rather a Scipio Africanus, who can defeat the terror despite all the talk of negotiations by the so-called polity.
iftikhar May 26, 2013 02:18pm
dont be impatient just let them do their job and then decide.
pathanoo May 26, 2013 02:29pm
Thank You, NFP for eloquently, as always, putting my thoughts (as well) in your article and the questions Nawaz Sharif and the Taliban Khan would have to answer now that they have power to work at resolving the terrorist threats without excuses. But one thing I still ask? How does one negotiate with a Cobra?
abbastoronto May 26, 2013 03:04pm
With this
Javed May 26, 2013 03:40pm
Hang a few in the public square for everyone to see and watch how quickly things settle down. That is the only language they understand.
G.A. May 26, 2013 04:14pm
Peace talks can work this time around only if Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan stand in unison to threaten them with force should they violate their accord again. If they do end up using force then that would mean end of confusion whether it is Pakistan's war or not. TTP will have no sympathizers left in Pakistan then.
rana1 May 26, 2013 04:38pm
like nawaz sharif
Faraz May 26, 2013 04:46pm
I am very opptimist in talks with Taliban...I do see a compromise from Taliban on Paan Shops..its doable
saleem May 26, 2013 05:58pm
if the nation was 100% in favor of eradicating these barbarians, we would have succeeded. the truth is that pakistanis still consider them their "brethren" who are fighting imperialism!
saleem May 26, 2013 06:00pm
you are right, however, as NFP pointed what is the cost of this bargain?
Asad Ali Shah May 26, 2013 06:18pm
Could NFP please explain as how his PPP "defeated" the TTP in the last 5 years? Is he advocating the same 5 years all over again?
Riaz Ahmad May 26, 2013 06:18pm
Which narcotic have you been on lately?
Riaz Ahmad May 26, 2013 06:20pm
With corruption perhaps
Riaz Ahmad May 26, 2013 06:26pm
Gooch you are right, the corrupt will vote for the corrupt, that is the problem in Pakistan. An emotional and highly egotistical society, that relies on the heart and not the mind, ill-equipped to rely on reason or rationality.
pathanoo May 26, 2013 06:43pm
Abbastoronto, I keep saying to you,"Stop smoking those weeds." Alas! you don't listen. Now what the heck are you talking about? Can you make sense of your own zibberish when the fog clears or does it ever?
Nomi May 26, 2013 06:52pm
Finally something positive from NFP, I am loving it. Hope peace prevails
abbastoronto May 26, 2013 07:09pm
@Riaz Ahmad & pathanoo: Greetings LOL. Canadian weed is not strong enough to give one high. We depend here on Pak variety. Sorry, if I can not get as high as you seem to be.
Salma SM May 26, 2013 07:44pm
@Ali S @kanwal Education in JI's hands means NO opposition to education and blowing up of schools by TTP. Excellent strategy from 'the novice, the useful idiot' Imran Khan. He should also give health ministry to JI to make polio vaccination a success.
Peace Maker May 26, 2013 08:56pm
The alternative is for the whole nation to stand up against these barbarians and a civilian govt strong enough to force army to finish them once and for all. As long as the govt is weak and some elements of army via Haqqani group or whatever not doing their job, we will have this problem. Simple as that!
Sinai May 26, 2013 09:28pm
Dawn should censor people like you for insulting Sindh or sindhi people. We sindhi strongly believe in democracy and freedom of speech, that is why PTI, pml, JI has no room in sindhi.
ady May 26, 2013 09:59pm
I believe people should give a chance to all such intellectuals and writers who think they have better wisdom and abilities to solve all such grim problems the country faces. It is easy to say or write or criticize others but hard to actually face the music! A fair chance of truce and negotiation will help even if it doesn't not end terrorism completely as many associates would part their way from that hardliners afterwards. A reduced group with scarce means and disorganized can be defeated then! Operations like we did before only bred more extremism as many innocent suffered and alienated in that region!
Nadeem May 27, 2013 12:39am
Ideologically JI and Imran Khan are same. They are both against America, corruption and secularism. Both want Pakistan to be Islami Falahi Riyasat. They understand TTP's demands. JI and Imran Khan are natural allies. PTI supporters in Lahore and Karachi either don't understand this or they are in denial.
BRR May 27, 2013 02:01am
The burgers will rejoice for a year, then become disenchanted next year after the JI and TTP mismanage education and female education and healthcare issues, and further get disengaged when the economy goes nowhere, and the final straw will be when the TTP breaks away from any deal made with PTI in KP, with the JI still supporting the TTP. Interesting times indeed, but the writing seems to be on the wall.
F Hyat May 27, 2013 02:06am
Three reasons not to talk to the taliban by Michael Kugelman, is a good article. As far as I am concerned they are three reasons too many to go into any dialogue with these ignoramuses. The soft approach will only embolden them and make them regard the new government with disdain and from a position of strength. Shakesperes hamlet comes to mind. To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune, Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles, And by opposing end them People of pakistan stand up and claim your country, wrest it from the hands of the Wahhabi.
Asad May 27, 2013 03:04am
Get rid of the paan shops.Its nothing but bloody mess made by the pitchkaris.
Baber Khan May 27, 2013 03:54am
OK! ... which means another 20 years of a fruitless fight! In the last 10 years, no one from the anti-Taliban camp has been able to convince (a whole lot of if not the majority of) Pakistanis that it's not America's war. Perhaps an eventual withdrawl of US and NATO forces in 2014 would do this miracle!
Concerned May 27, 2013 06:58am
TTP is supposed to be a religious outfit and projects a goal of building a religious system in a country. However if the religion they want to talk about is
Ghani K. May 27, 2013 01:52pm
Nation opted for Status Quo & dynastic politics. Power shifted from Bhutto -Zardari clan of Garhi KhudaBaksh to Sharifs of Raiwind . As far previous regime that lasted 5 years leaving behind legacy of the worst governance, no accountability,all sins forgiven. Beginning of new era ,sun shine through the patches of clouds .Good luck gentlemen
Ali S May 27, 2013 02:28pm
Does quoting Shakespeare on a blog comment make you feel more cultured?
saleem May 27, 2013 04:26pm
may be u don't consider innocent Pakistanis both civil and uniform who are dying simply because we cannot be 100% convinced to eliminate these barbarians - if we are not going to do it somebody else will.
Nasir May 27, 2013 08:28pm
Why none of these strategies were applied to Syria?? when the truth will come out people will hate both sides.