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TTP and the perils of inertia

Published Jun 29, 2013 06:21am


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IT is our war. It is America’s war. Thousands of Pakistanis have perished in this war. And all we do is take part in this debate. We do nothing to end it.

If one could put it down to a simple lack of will or spine it would have been bad enough. That a fair bit of the discourse on terrorism represents ideologically motivated obfuscation is unforgivable, particularly given how many compatriots have had to sacrifice so much.

The dominant argument is that Pakistan’s support to the US-led war in Afghanistan and the CIA’s drone attacks are the only drivers of terrorism in the country. Ergo, this support to the US is not just blamed for terrorism but also advanced as a justification for the mass murder of our people.

Refusal to accept this view in its entirety is immediately pounced upon as being tantamount to condoning or worse still supporting the drone attacks that mostly kill our civilians, women and children, and occasionally the militant in the tribal areas.

God help you if you happen to have doubts about talks with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP): “Amreeka key agent media mein bethey huey hein jo amn ke khilaf hein” (There are American agents in the media opposed to peace), Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan said in his ‘first’ televised interview since his election campaign accident.

His utter contempt for anyone holding a view different to his own is always a bit upsetting but, on this occasion, it was reassuring because it established the PTI leader had been restored to good health and his former self.

Therefore, it wasn’t surprising to hear him say that if the US can facilitate the opening of an Afghan Taliban office in Doha and initiate a dialogue with them why couldn’t Pakistan do the same in case of the TTP.

Let me be open and admit that I have a soft corner for the great Khan. He gave me and countless others one of the finest moments of our lives by leading Pakistan to its only Cricket World Cup triumph. That is why we all forgave him for his “In the twilight of my career…” speech.

That the well-meaning, born-again Muslim then went on to a greater triumph in setting up and successfully running the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital for specialised cancer care in memory of his mother who, like mine, died at the cruel hands of cancer was awe-inspiring.

So yes, I disagree with him but won’t call him Taliban Khan; even if he finds ideological compassion for the TTP and understanding for the atrocities committed by the group against thousands of Pakistanis.

He is free to call me an American agent or by whatever name he wishes because I oppose talks with the TTP. I do so because there is no parallel between that and the US starting a dialogue with the Afghan Taliban.

The US is now keen to get out of Afghanistan, a foreign country it invaded with UN approval and possibly a just cause, after the Taliban administration refused to hand over the mostly Saudi suspected perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks on US soil.

It went into the country seeking retribution. This retribution wasn’t possible without regime change. It did what it thought necessary. It may even have attained its main objective of attacking Al Qaeda in its sanctuary and denuding it of its capacity to attack the US on its soil again.

But a democracy it remains and its war-weary voting public is wary of continuing a bloody conflict which, they understand, cannot be won. So, the US has now embarked on its plan to shrink its giant footprint in that foreign country.

However, it also doesn’t wish a return of the pre-invasion situation in Afghanistan where Islamic militants from around the world found a safe haven and training ground to serve as a launching pad for their global jihad.

It wants guarantees that only the Taliban can give. It isn’t clear if, in line with ISI belief, the Taliban can return to their pre-war glory and rule over Kabul as well but it is clear to the US they’ll have large swathes of the country under their control as they do even now; hence, the talks.

If the admittedly imperfect Afghan democracy collapses post-US withdrawal so be it as long as the new power structures can guarantee no sanctuaries for global jihadis. The US doesn’t seem interested in ‘nation building’ any more. It’ll retain its drone programme, and possibly some residual air and special operations capability so nothing’s left to chance. We have our democracy to lose. Unless, that is, we actually believe that once the US has pulled out of Afghanistan or we have pulled out of the ‘US war’ all will be hunky-dory. We’ll need to forget the TTP is committed to their brand of Sharia in the country and beyond.

They find democracy, diversity of opinion and faith against their ideological beliefs. Groups of mass murderers such as the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi are either TTP allies or franchises. The TTP continues to offer sanctuaries to foreign fighters with global ambitions.

Thousands of soldiers have died clearing the bulk of the tribal areas of these militants. The TTP remains ensconced in its remaining stronghold of North Waziristan. That is where the serpent’s head is.

One would have said carry on with your obfuscation, talk about talks, do deals like in the past, if it wasn’t so dangerous. All this wasted time means wasted opportunities. The TTP gets bolder and bolder in its attacks; its ranks appear swollen by zealots; who knows what fear can do to people.

What if one day, battered by TTP’s bombings and filled with despair by the inertia of the state, more people turn to its ideology if only to find some respite, save themselves? What a horrifying thought. I’d rather be labelled an American agent and strive to salvage whatever is left of my Pakistan.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

Comments (15) Closed

malik Jun 29, 2013 08:13am

Thanks. I too fail to understand the mantra of PTI and elk. Each and very member of their team has been programed to say same thing over and over again. 'It is amrica's war. Once we pull out it will be fine. It is the drones. Once they stop everything will be fine'. We don't even hear a feint condemnation of any terrorism in the country even though their own people have been killed as well. Same goes for PML. It too wants dialogues with the terrorists. It seems like terrorists have been given a free reign.

kk Jun 29, 2013 12:04pm

I am amased that everybody talks about Drone attacks but what about our jets ,helicopters and mortar shelling targeting innocent khyber agency alone more than 2100 innocent people lost their lives due to mortar shelling and bombartment in 4 years operation .And even then security forces failed to clear a single village of it...and what an irony that during operations security forces fails to find high value targets but drones in some cases did hit them as in wazirastan case

Khalid Hyder Jun 29, 2013 01:59pm

Is there any guarantee that the TTP leadership is headquartered in Waziristan. It is easier to hide in Karachi or Lahore or any other major Pakistani city. All Al Qaeda leaders were arrested from major Pakistani cities. Attacking Waziristan will not solve the problem. We have to disarm the whole of Pakistan and enforce the writ of the state. Otherwise, as Altaf Hussain has said, the Titanic is going down

umair Jun 29, 2013 02:27pm

A really nice article. I agree with almost everything said by writer here.I hope mainstream political parties also understand that there is a huge difference between Americans talking with Afghan Taliban and Pakistani government engaging in talks with TTP. TTP is a monster and we need to get rid of that.

Irfan Husain Jun 29, 2013 03:57pm

A sober -- and sobering -- analysis.

Vakil Jun 29, 2013 04:41pm

Well said,... and very brave and forthright.... but just who (that matters) is listening??? Quite honestly, I don't see any difference between the TTP's activities and aims against those of the Afghan Taliban movement before 9/11. We all know what happened subsequently to that country with even the tacit compliance (in the name of so-called "peace") of the majority of Afghans. Now, delete the word "Afghans" and replace that with "Pakistanis" ... that appears (sadly) to be the direction in which the country appears to be headed... and only media debates (like the author has alluded to) by "Amreeka ke agents" to try and stop it... Good luck, and God speed to Pakistan!

mazharuddin Jun 29, 2013 05:59pm

All this show me that I should strike Qama on my head and fall asleep. Writers' mindset shows having sectarian feeling. He mostly criticize on LeT and LeJ that do not seem involved in anti state disturbance, I have read the literature of their scholars and found patriot and honest. But perhaps there is a group which having some sectarian sheep the part of TTP involved in countrywide disturbance with foreign aid, that involved in large killing in Karachi which can not be put on LeJ or LeT.

K.K. Fakhta Jun 29, 2013 07:23pm

Well written. We need to understand that the US is negotiating with the Taliban to have as safe an exit as possible. They have disrupted Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and will move on to other countries to pursue THEIR national interests. We live in this neighborhood we do not have the luxury of going away any where. The choices we have are to either kill the snake that you have correctly identified or continue to live with it until it kills us one by one and establish a colony of snakes that Afghanistan had become after the Soviet withdrawal, However, I now have doubts on whether we have the capacity of getting rid of this menace at all. It may already have become too late. Our politicians and I am most disappointed by Imran Khan here, live in a delusionary state. The Maulanas never were great at making correct assessments and are not now. NS has chosen a path of least resistance and will probably change when the rubber hits the road. PPP unfortunately have let us down badly. I am most disturbed by Imran Khan. and his continous rant against the drones and tying the whole thing to the Us war on terror. I hope our youth sees through this and does not join the Naya Pakistan based on such an irrational underpinning. This is where Imran can do the greatest damage. I hope he does not succeed, since he will be dealing a death blow to any hope of a secular, liberal Pakistan based on muslim values and culture and with a muslim population that the Quaid envisaged. .

Allah Bakhsh Chaudhry Jun 29, 2013 07:26pm

If a solitary voice carries any weight, I fully endorse the view expressed by Abbas Nasir.

Allah Bakhsh Chaudhry Jun 29, 2013 07:28pm

If a solitary voice carries any significance, I strongly endorse the views expressed by Abbas Nasir.

Alex Jun 29, 2013 08:28pm

1.Iam sick of people trying to defend US invasion of afghanistan--it was a war against humanity...i feel ashamed to read from people who thro petty masquerading of "secularism" try to defend this war 2. TTP is a terrorist organization.Agreed and done. Whats so new you want to tell us? doesnt mean bcoz of their evil America gets an alibi to kill thousands of civilians. terrorism cannot answer terrorism. 3. again and again repeating i will be labelled this and that shows you lack arguments to defend your viewpoint//this wont get you sympathy..

Imaran Jun 29, 2013 09:10pm

Imran's rantings are populist and have worked for him to get him into government in KP. The fact that he won the world cup is not enough to ignore the damage he is doing to Pakistan now.

BRR Jun 29, 2013 10:02pm

A very good article which, one would hope, could find acceptance by a broad swathe of Pakistani people - but not likely. A lone cry in the wilderness that is Pakistan.

NASAH (USA) Jul 01, 2013 07:13am

What can you negotiate with the animals.

NASAH (USA) Jul 01, 2013 07:09am

What can you negotiate with the animals.