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Charge of the talk-talk brigade

Published Jun 29, 2013 06:21am


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BY now, Imran Khan must have come to the conclusion that running a political party is a bit more complicated than captaining a cricket team.

When he was a successful skipper of the national squad, he was known as an autocratic, no-nonsense leader. But then a cricket team has 11 players, and if they want to play, they don’t cross the captain.

Welcome to the fractious world of politics where members of parties are not bound by the constraints of discipline, or even good sense. Of late, my email inbox has been filled with irate complaints about two Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) legislators who have made statements that have made a mockery of Imran Khan’s campaign slogan of building a new Pakistan.

First, we have Mujahid Ali Khan, MNA, demanding on the floor of the National Assembly that Mumtaz Qadri, Salmaan Taseer’s murderer be “honourably released”. Considering that this self-confessed killer was convicted for assassinating the Punjab governor two years ago, this demand is a new low for even one of our public representatives.

Then, following the deadly suicide bombing of a mosque in Peshawar a few days ago, the KP health minister, Shaukat Ali Yousafzai, saw a foreign hand behind the incident. According to him, “no Muslim could attack a mosque”.

This PTI stalwart is of the view that the Taliban are “against attacking places of worship.” Tell that to the thousands who have been killed in mosques over the years.

But in his conspiracy theory about the hidden hand, he is not alone. When a group of foreign trekkers were murdered at the base camp of Nanga Parbat recently, the prime minister said: “The attack is a conspiracy hatched against Pakistan at the behest of those who wanted to destroy her.”

Considering that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was swift in claiming that its new faction Junoodul Hifsa had carried out the attack, blaming the proverbial ‘hidden hand’ is to bury one’s head firmly in the sand. It is exactly this kind of ostrich-like behaviour that has prevented effective action against known militant groups.

Both Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan are in the forefront of those demanding negotiations with the jihadi groups that have multiplied like a virulent cancer. Well, now they have an opportunity as they are in control of Punjab and KP provinces, as well as the central government.

But before they proceed down this dubious path, let me remind them of the kind of people they want to talk to. Here is a letter to this newspaper from a Dr K. Fiazuddin of Karachi in case Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan missed it:

“According to your news report (June 10), the Taliban beheaded two boys aged 10 and 16 on the suspicion of spying for the Afghan army. Last year also in the same district of Kandahar they beheaded and skinned a 16-year-old boy, a six-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy.

“The Taliban are ruthless, savage and brutal. How dare they behead small children? The civilised world should stand against them and eliminate them wherever they are. They deserve no mercy. They are barbarians.”

And if the prime minister and Imran Khan think that the Pakistani Taliban are any gentler than their Afghan brethren, they need to talk to the comrades of the hundreds of our security personnel who have been tortured and beheaded by the TTP and its offshoots.

In emails and on TV chat shows, I have heard one argument ad nauseam: if the Americans can talk to the Taliban, why shouldn’t we? This asinine argument misses the point that the Americans are negotiating their withdrawal. Pakistan does not have this luxury.

Our army has repeatedly reached truce agreements with various militant groups over the years; each time, the jihadis have used these pauses to regroup and then launch attacks at will.

This was demonstrated most famously when Swat was handed over to Mullah Fazlullah and his band of Taliban. They immediately set out to conquer the neighbouring area of Malakand, bringing them 100km from Islamabad.

It would be a mistake to think that just because they are poorly educated, the Taliban do not think strategically. By killing a group of foreigners in Gilgit-Baltistan, they have virtually ended the small trickle of intrepid mountaineers who came there to scale the spectacular peaks in the region.

This will affect thousands of Shias in the Baltistan valley who made a living from foreign visitors. They have also exposed the government’s pitiful security measures to the world yet again.

When I was there last October with seven English friends, I was happy to see how much they enjoyed the beauty and serenity of the place. All of them spoke of returning, and recommending the trip to other friends. But on the journey to Islamabad, we drove down the Karakoram Highway and when I saw the suspicion and hatred in the eyes of the locals near Chilas, I made a mental note not to bring foreign guests to these parts ever again.

I continue to be surprised by the attitude Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan have chosen to adopt towards the Taliban. Both have had ample exposure to normal countries that handle such security threats with a firm hand. No tolerance is shown in either Saudi Arabia or the UK towards terrorism of any kind. And yet, both our leaders treat these killers with kid gloves in Pakistan, a country that has suffered so much violence at the hands of religious extremists.

Another thing the talk-talk brigade forgets is that the Taliban’s demands are non-negotiable. What they want is the replacement of the constitution by their version of the Sharia. They view the offer of negotiations as a sign of the government’s weakness. Finally, how do you talk to people who behead and skin children?

Comments (19) Closed

Ejaaz Jun 29, 2013 07:59am

Finally, how do you talk to people who behead and skin children?

I am sure they believe absolutely in the historical examples from Islamic history where young boys who had a single pubic hair were treated as adults and beheaded. I am sure you are aware of these historical examples as well. They just take it seriously to emulate those in history on whom we lavish praise and reverence.

malole Jun 29, 2013 08:20am

Once they 'conquer' Pakistan next destination will be neighboring countries and from there on it is world wide jihad. So get ready everyone.

pathanoo Jun 29, 2013 09:17am

An Excellent, Honest analysis exposing the hypocrisy of Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan. They condemn the Taliban atrocities but are the first ones to fervently push for negotiations with these terrorists. They know their parties were spared Taliban violence during the national election and now the devil's due has to be paid. If Pakistani people think that Nawaz and Imran will make them safe from Talibans; they have a shock coming.

Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi Jun 29, 2013 10:20am

A thought provoking article by Irfan Hussain sb. I hope it will wake up people from their deep slumber. If this does not then i dont know what will. May God have mercy on all of us and make us realize the dangers faced by our community.

Ali S Jun 29, 2013 11:13am

I voted for PTI, and needless to say I'm rather disappointed, especially with the statements of some of their MNAs recently. IK is a political novice whichever way you look at it, and his decision not to take a lesson from history and instead follow through with his brashness will cost him dearly (it definitely doesn't help that he has to run KPK, the most volatile province both in terms of security issues and voter loyalty). But I think criticizing IK and Nawaz Sharif is redundant, they're both very popular leaders who are merely projecting the views of this country's silent majority - warped views that are the enduring legacy of Gen Zia ul Haq.

Shakoor Jun 29, 2013 11:37am

The writer asks ". How do you talk to people who behead children?" Answer------ " You Don't"

Ashraf Jun 29, 2013 01:32pm

Being a prolific and a prudent columnist Mr. Irfan Husain has an extensive knowledge and a good grip on Taliban. In the last paragraph of this article Mr. Irfan Husain says "I continue to be surprised by the attitude of Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan have chosen to adopt towards the Taliban". Well, I am no big guy. I am just a down to earth ordinary guy from the teeming millions who are aimlessly trudging along in this country. In my tiny mind I hold no element of 'surprise' at the attitude of Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan that they have chosen to adopt towards the Taliban. Allow me to say this in my own simple English that I firmly believe in the fact that we Muslims not only come from different schools of thoughts, but we also have different mindsets. Why this is so is an immensely long drawn discourse. Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, and many, many others have a belief in a certain school of thoughts, as well as they have a mindset that tenaciously puts them into a dogma about the Taliban. And that's it. Ashraf

Parvez Jun 29, 2013 01:43pm

Absolutely first class and spot on. A certain feeling seems to be growing that most probably the political leaders are taking this position because seeing results on the ground and possibly knowing more than the average Joe, they have come to the conclusion that our security agencies are just not upto the job of doing what needs to be done................this feeling needs to be put to rest, immediately.

Anwar.S Jun 29, 2013 04:10pm

Well written article. I agree with every single word. Sadly our leaders in power think differently. I hope they see the light if the day.

Muneer bhai Jun 29, 2013 04:41pm

Fact is that Pakistan has lost the fight against terrorism and various politicians, judges or institutions are simply trying to save their own skin by ingratiating themselves with the Taliban.

KKRoberts Jun 29, 2013 05:14pm

"What they want is the replacement of the constitution by their version of the Sharia." Not really.This demand is just a pretext.They want to take control of Pakistan. Once they ruled Afghanistan, So they think they can do the same in Pakistan too.

Agha Ata Jun 29, 2013 05:51pm

It is not that Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif do not see the logic, it is because they have to agree with the third party as well which is, of course, more powerful than both of them combined. One more thing, is it still correct to believe that TTP is led by illiterate people? I personally believe that it is led by some of the best brains developed in academies and staff colleges of the world!

Shamas Jun 29, 2013 08:24pm

Irfan Husain is one of the most astute and sensible observers of Pakistan. I hope the new dispensation in Pakistan pays heed to his advice.

Dr. D. Prithipaul Jun 29, 2013 08:32pm

But have not the Taliban leaders benefited for the last more than 10 years from protection by Pakistan? Are not the leaders, including Mullah Omar and his close advisers and lieutenants, still living safely on Pakistani soil? What then is the rationale of calling them names, barbarians, etc? What is the difference between Taliban barbarism and Pakistani civilised behaviour in sending terrorists against India, in continuation of a 1000 year old hostility to Hindus? The barbarism and the civilisation can both be justified with quotations from the Holy Book.

Imtiaz Ahmed Jun 29, 2013 09:32pm

Is it possible to send Nawaz Sharif

Cynic Jun 29, 2013 10:37pm

Facile article based on hearsay and anecdotal evidence masquerading as facts. However despicable the skewered ideology of the Taliban, does not justify dishonest discourse by our own self appointed intellectuals. Asinine ? I don't think so, time for our morally bankrupt elites to get off their high horse and recognize the part that they have played in the whole imbroglio. Why have we failed in alienating the people and what part have we played in gravitating them towards these barbarians. Replaying western mantra over and over does not make it right or desirable. Indigenous problems require indiigineous solutions not imported ones with outside agendas. The US is looking forward and so should we, and the author once again is wrong to assume that the sole reason for their talks with the Taliban is to withdrawn successfully. Besides the author needs to understand the politics of geography, kandhar is in Afghanistan and under afghan Taliban control. Negotiations from strength, that is what is required and that is what the British commander suggeted recently as an opportunity missed by them. Ability to string two sentences together does not qualify one as a rational or strategic thinker, it just means that one has verbal diarrhea, nothing cognitive about it. It is time to seriously consider the future of Pakistan without such useless dialogue written solely for personal aggrandizement .

s.khan Jun 30, 2013 12:28am

Talibans know what they want and they are determined. Do Nawaz Sharif and Imran khan know what their winning strategy is and the compromise they will make to achieve it? My hunch is they don't and merely expressing the wishful thinking. WB Yeats famously said " wicked are full of passionate intensity and the moderates lack any conviction".

G.A. Jun 30, 2013 12:49am

Taliban are busy taking away lives and livelihood. It's time somebody starts torching their poppy fields to take away the Taliban's livelihood too. Give them a taste of their own venom.

Razzaq Jun 30, 2013 11:41pm

I totally agree with every word written here by Mr. Irfan Hussin.