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APC: peace consensus or sell-out?


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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chairing the All Parties Conference (APC) in Islamabad on September 9, 2013.— File photo
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chairing the All Parties Conference (APC) in Islamabad on September 9, 2013.— File photo

THE resolution emanating from Monday’s all-parties conference seems more of a document of surrender than an expression of a nation’s resolve to fight terrorism.

It attributes the loss of thousands of innocent lives not to the militant violence but to the “war, the illegal and immoral drone strikes and the blowback from the actions of Nato/Isaf forces in Afghanistan”. In fact, militant groups responsible for the death of thousands of men, women, children and soldiers, are virtually legitimised as stakeholders in the peace efforts.

It was apparent from the outset that a conference of parties with such diverse ideological and political views would not be able to come up with a coherent strategy to tackle terrorism. But the outcome has been even more shambolic than expected.

There are no two views that dialogue is the best way to end conflict. So, it may be a right decision by the APC to try this course once again and initiate negotiations with all the militant groups involved in violence and insurgency in different parts of the country.

But for the talks to succeed, the government has to lay down certain conditions and a specific framework. A previous APC sponsored by the Awami National Party on the eve of elections had agreed on certain preconditions for peace talks that included renouncing of violence and adherence to the Constitution.

Unfortunately, these preconditions are conspicuous by their absence in the resolution adopted on Monday. The very tenor of the resolution is indicative of a weak state willing to concede to the forces that challenge its authority.

Not surprisingly, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan has “cautiously” welcomed the government’s offer for talks. But there is no indication that the militant group has backed down from its own preconditions enunciated by its spokesman earlier. These preconditions include virtually changing Pakistan’s foreign policy and enforcement of their version of Sharia. There is no promise of even cessation of violence, let alone of renouncing force.

In fact, the TTP has upped the ante after the APC resolution calling for the state to show more sincerity before the negotiations. “The government will also have to convince the army and to decide on a roadmap for the talks,” a TTP spokesman was quoted as saying.

Many security experts see little prospect of peace talks taking place at all, let alone of them being successful in the current situation. “There is very little probability of peace negotiations taking off the ground,” contends retired Brigadier Asad Munir, a former ISI officer who has vast experience in dealing with militant groups in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal areas.

This apprehension is based on the past experience of various broken peace deals. Pakistan has signed at least nine peace agreements with the militants in Fata and KP over the last 10 years, but they all collapsed within months. “In all the cases, the agreements were broken by the militants,” said Mr Munir who had been directly involved in many of those peace deals. “It is a completely wrong perception that the security forces did not honour the promises.”

A major problem for the government in negotiation is that the militants are not a monolithic group. Security officials maintain that there are more than three dozen militant and sectarian groups or factions operating in different parts of KP, Fata and other parts of the country.

While these militant groups may be united in common cause, they all have their own agenda that often leads to fierce conflict. Even the TTP is divided into various factions, many of which are completely under Al Qaeda’s influence. In this situation, even if the TTP agrees to a peace deal others will not accept it, say some retired and serving security officials.

There is in fact a danger that any negotiations with the TTP may trigger a new wave of violence by other groups. The most serious militant threat comes from North Waziristan, which has become the main sanctuary for many Al Qaeda-linked groups. Among them are various Punjabi militant factions with a strong support network in south Punjab. These groups are also active across the border in Afghanistan. “There is no possibility of them coming to the negotiating table,” says Mr Munir.

The APC resolution has also asked the government to consider raising the issue of US drone strikes with the UN Security Council. Indeed, there is national consensus on the stopping of illegal and unethical use of drones that reportedly cause collateral damage, while killing some key Al Qaeda leaders. Most of these attacks are now targeting militant sanctuaries in North Waziristan.

However, while raising the issue at the UN and other forums, Pakistan should also be able to convince the international community that it is able to eliminate militant sanctuaries from its border areas, which threaten regional security. We cannot deny the fact that many terrorist attacks in other countries have roots in North Waziristan and other tribal regions.

For a comprehensive national security and counter-terrorism policy, the government needs to adopt a holistic approach. Indeed, dialogue and negotiations must be a part of the strategy, but it should not be the only option. Sustainable peace can never be achieved if the state gives up the option of using force to assert its authority.

Renunciation of violence and acceptance of the country’s Constitution must be a precondition for negotiations, whether they are militant groups fighting the security forces in Fata or Baloch insurgent groups.

The writer is an author and journalist.

Comments (27) Closed

Azhar Hussain Sep 11, 2013 07:12am

Pakistanis will keep suffering if the same leaders are back in power. They are not sincere to people of Pakistan.

Khaled Sep 11, 2013 08:57am

Agreed, its a sell- out. very aptly summarized:

"The very tenor of the resolution is indicative of a weak state willing to concede to the forces that challenge its authority".

malik Sep 11, 2013 09:30am

The army is either incapable to fight or don't want to fight these marauders. Only if they were sincere in fighting these nihilistic people the outcome would be different. Now their motto is 'my way or the highway'.

plaintalk Sep 11, 2013 11:31am

"dialogue and negotiations must be a part of the strategy, but it should not be the only option." What rot! Was the author and journalist in his senses when he made this observation? Who ever said that dialogue was the ONLY option. At least Nawaz did NOT.

Syed Sep 11, 2013 11:47am

Sell Out. Surrender. Cowards. Well written.

NJM Sep 11, 2013 01:18pm

Well composed and pave justification in highlighting this core issue in the correct direction. I salute to the author but is there someone in any corner of any political parties of our country will pay any heed to sort out this issue amicably in the largest interest of the country only, it will always remain a big question mark??? Needless to mention here, we have already been declared a failed state and as a nation are responsible for all ongoing wrongdoing in our country as we have been picking the same old faces for one reason or other. may Almighty Allah bless all Muslims and guide us the correct path. Aameen

Nawazish Sep 11, 2013 01:54pm

I dont agree with the writer. APC was meant to make peace talks a first option and not the only option. After fighting two bloody Afghan Wars the British Empire learned that peace with the tribals was a better option. The mighty Americans after virtually failing for over a decade of Afghan War are now too eager to talk with Taliban. Zahid Hussain's assumptions and his style of conclusions discourage the start of any talks. Lets listen to the TTP demands first and then make any strategy for the talks. That will be a better approach.

Ijaz Sep 11, 2013 02:07pm

I agree with Zahid Hussain's analysis. The Government is not leading, but merely lending legitimacy to the terrorist outfits. The families of the shaheeds will be appalled.

Surely the way to tackle this menace has to be multi-track. I would respctfully suggest: 1. exploit their differences and get them to fight each other and not the state (intelligence war). 2. Attack them with the power of the state (military war). 3. Engage with those elements that are tired of fighting and offer them a stake in the country, within the constitution. The constitution can be changed as we have seen, but it needs to be stressed to militants that they need to win enough votes in parliament to do this (political war). 4. Provide employment and development opportunities (economic war) and finally 5, ensure that courts and educational establishments operate efficiently and effectively (hearts and minds war). All 5 tracks must be followed - not merely the lilly livered apeasement as espoused by the likes of Rana Sanaullah.

Akram Sep 11, 2013 04:34pm

I agree with the Brigadiers assessment, any peace deal is unlikely to last as there are so many differing opinions and agendas. The way to destroy TTP is to take advantage of this and divide them and let them fight each other. This has always been the way in FATA as it has always been the way in such tribal societies. Such tribals always make mistakes, they have made a number, such as the attack on Malala which backfired badly in Pakistan. They will make others, Pakistan needs to ensure they take advantage of such moves as will be inevitable as they lay out their visions and agendas.

zak Sep 11, 2013 07:05pm

The paymasters of Taliban and extremists are 'outside agencies' who fund, arm and co ordinate their attacks. Pakistan should deal with them not these hoodlums for hire. No one wants to live under the rule of these sadists. They are not muslims. They kill for the sake of power hunger.

M Khaleeq Sep 11, 2013 07:22pm

If you meet the demands of Taliban Sep 11, 2013 07:33pm

@Azhar Hussain: yes you are right .we dont have sincere leader.

desida Sep 11, 2013 08:12pm

@malik: Army is at the mercy of the PM who has no guts to establish government rits. He is more worry about his business then the country. Sad and Allah Hafiz Pakistan.

Ajay Sep 11, 2013 08:43pm

Stage is set for UN taking control of Taliban negotiations with the Pakistan government or closely scrutinizing it. When Pakistan goes to UN complaining about drone strikes, it won't be able to establish that it has eliminated all these gangs. Now it has started peace negotiations, so all activity against them has stopped. So UN would like to know what is the agenda of peace negotiations and the timelines. If there is none or Pakistan government says it is not progressing or if negotiations exclude some groups, then Pakistan is setting itself up for foreign intrusion & control that goes beyond drones. Pakistan will not be able t establish that the Afghan Taliban, Pakistan Taliban and al Qaeda are not working in tandem, hence Pakistan policy framers will be seen as affecting international fight against terrorism. Ultimately the war against these groups will acquire a more urgency and much more serious form with JUI, LET, JED, etc. also turning against the govt. With bulk of US troops gone, US/NATO forces will not have any restraints against these groups and Pakistan would be forced to cooperate or risk bearing the brunt of strikes.

Naseer Sep 11, 2013 09:03pm

@malik: Army fears the Supreme Court. What will happen if tomorrow Supreme Court holds army leaders responsible for taking action against innocent terrorists like the Laal Masjid fiasco.

Naseem Sep 11, 2013 09:05pm

@Azhar Hussain: Imran Khan is new in this arena and he is the most vocal regarding peace talks. What's wrong with talking?

Naseem Sep 11, 2013 09:13pm

@malik: Pakistan army can only run petrol pumps, housing societies and other businesses BUT have no desire to fight. It is their responsibility to take care of external and internal threats. If government is compromising it is becoz of weakness of the military. Lets for once call a spade a spade.

gangadin Sep 11, 2013 10:54pm

You have to stop calling names. Militant groups in FATA and Baluch insurgents in Baluchistan compared to who? Urdu speaking parasite occupying our land and draining the economy? There should be some preconditions for the government too. Start by removing the President and the Interior minister.

syed Sep 12, 2013 12:03am

In principle, there should no peace talks with terrorist whose targets are women empowerment and education, schools, innocent public in mosques and markets. Peace talks are to satisfy religious parties and PTI. After extending peace offer, there should be solid progress on agenda and time table.

Mustafa Sep 12, 2013 12:38am

Pakistan needs more people like Zahid Hussain, normal people with understanding and reasoning. Unfortunately Pakistan is in clutch or grip of insane politicians and leaders who will be responsible for destroying Pakistan achieved by Mohammad Ali Jinnah. There is not a single Pakistani leader who cares what will happen to his/her children and grand children and great grand children in years to come. By that time the doors of the West will be shut and no place for them to escape. It is because their grand parents were busy fighting West but not the real enemies within Pakistan. The insane politicians and leaders of Pakistan who believe their nuclear arms will save Pakistan are dead wrong. You cannot use Nukes against your enemies within Pakistan living in cities, towns, villages, tribes and caves. You have to physically flush them and eliminate them to make Pakistan a peaceful and stable country for your children, grand children and great grand children unless you believe they will move to England, America or Canada. Unfortunately the West is reading the writings on the wall and most likely, they will make it difficult for Pakistanis to enter their countries.

Jawwad Sep 12, 2013 01:13am

This is probably the most stupid exercise seen in history of countries. People of Pakistan have already given mandate to PML-N. What in the world they are holding an APC for? What consensuses do they need from other parties when public has already their consensus? You have the mandate. Go on and adopt a policy, any policy and then carry it out. If other political parties have an issue with that, tell them to wait for next election and get voted in to make your own policies. Effectively, Pakistani Politicians are getting ready to sell Pakistani children to Taliban just like Musharraf sold Pakistani fathers to US. Malala has already run away. Praeterquam uobis!

Ahmer Sep 12, 2013 01:13am

We are looking for a political solution to a military problem because jabbing is always easier than fighting. We will pay a very heavy price for this easy choice some day.

Jawwad Sep 12, 2013 01:15am

@Nawazish: Ha, spoken like a true illiterate. Then what was the need to make Pakistan and sacrifice 1 million lost during the partition and countless others before and after the partition? Might as well had lived as Indians. At least Indian Govt would not have been hand in gloves with terrorist like your government is?

Mohammad Saleem Sep 12, 2013 04:21am

Actually, Pakistan faces a daunting and uphill battle to eliminate Frankenstein monster that has been created for regional hegemony. Pakistan needs regional and international active support to successfully tackle its existential threat posed by dreadful militant groups.

MM Sep 12, 2013 04:26am

Nawaz Sharif seems more interested to complete his 5-year term............

Mamataz Sep 12, 2013 05:08am

It is rightly said that one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter. This is a struggle for the soul of Pakistan. It appears that the militants are more sincere in their beliefs than the profit-seeking politicians. And the Army just wants to enjoy the fruits of citizens' labour. Militancy does not arise in vacuum, There are causes which need to be addressed. One way or another, a new equilibrium will be established. Pakistan will become more religion oriented and there is nothing wrong with that.

Fara Sep 12, 2013 05:22am

Dialogue with TTP is not the answer.....the roots of Taliban emanate from GHQ, to them