Nothing for families of victims of terrorism in the talks

Published March 28, 2014
A Pakistani Christian mourns the death of a relative who was killed in the September 22 bomb blast at the All Saint's Church, after a service in Peshawar on December 22, 2013. — Photo by AFP
A Pakistani Christian mourns the death of a relative who was killed in the September 22 bomb blast at the All Saint's Church, after a service in Peshawar on December 22, 2013. — Photo by AFP

PESHAWAR: As the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and the federal government walk the treacherous path to discuss peaceful coexistence, the bereaved families of thousands of people fallen victims to terrorism are expected to remain neglected.

Political scientists and teachers of international relations, in their separate interviews with Dawn, opine the victims’ families could at best draw solace if peace is achieved, forgetting about more than 50,000 innocent lives lost to insanity.

“If peace is achieved in the longer run as a result of the ongoing peace deliberations, we will have to forget many bitter things for the national cause and move forward though it would be immensely difficult particularly for the families of terrorists’ victims,” said Dr Hussain Shaheed Soherwardi, a lecturer at University of Peshawar’s international relations department.

He said Jews went through the same situation when they unhappily saw their prime minister shaking hands with their terrorist, Yasir Arafat, searching for peace.

“It is always difficult to grant amnesty to the terrorists of the previous days, but this bitter pill has to be swallowed for durable peace,” he said.

Like Mr Soherwardi, Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi, an academician and a noted defence analyst, also feels the families of the victims of terrorism will be the ultimate losers as they lost their dear ones to militancy and, at the same time, they won’t get justice.

Usually, it has been seen (the world over) that in crisis situations, according to Dr Rizvi, the government keeps interacting with the affected families and remains in touch with the military throughout the crisis time.

“While the government is in touch with the military because of its compulsion, it has neglected the victims’ families,” he said.

Dr Rizvi sees a reason behind the official neglect.

“The federal government does not want to talk about them (families of the victims of terrorism) as it says it (their predicament) is history, so let’s move forward.”

The victims’ families do not appear to be on the priority list of either of the negotiating sides. There is no official word on what the government is thinking about the sacrifices rendered by thousands of civilian and military victims, who lost lives to the TTP brutalities.While the terrorists’ victims stand neglected, the two negotiating teams have been mulling over the exchange of non-combatant abductees held by the TTP and the state.

TTP negotiator Professor Mohammad Ibrahim, a senior Jamaat-i-Islami leader, has also indicated that the possible release of Ajmal Khan, vice chancellor of the Islamia College University, has figured out in the talks so far.

Similarly, from the TTP side demands have surfaced about the release of the non-combatant members of the families of TTP leaders allegedly held by the military.

However, there is a complete mum about the thousands of people, who have been sent to graves by the TTP suicide bombers and its agents of death and destruction.

“The only solace that the victims’ families could draw from this situation would rest in their ability to feel proud about their personal sacrifices,” said Dr Soherwardi.

“The public at large should remind them (families) that their losses have not been ignored and the whole citizenry stand by them in their difficult times.”

He, however, acknowledges it will be difficult to practice.

Dr AZ Hilali, chairman of the University of Peshawar’s political science department, doesn’t appear optimistic about the outcome of the talks.

“The State will remain at the mercy of guns forever even if the current process leads to establish peace,” he said.

Dr Rizvi also holds an identical opinion.

The likely extension in the ongoing ceasefire might will be acceptable to the government but the army “will never let the coming summer past” as TTP, he added, wanted to avoid armed confrontation this summer, waiting for the post-US drawdown from Afghanistan.

“The Army will not give them that much time; it would see this process a couple of more weeks but won’t let the coming summer pass,” said Dr Rizvi.

He said the nation was also divided over peace talks.

Even the religious scholars belonging to Shia and Barelvi schools of thoughts, too, had expressed reservations about the peace talks.

For Dr Hilali, TTP already has achieved more than it deserved from the negotiation process: it has managed to emerge as ‘innocent’.

“Certain religio-political parties conducted a vicious campaign to portray TTP as ignorant guys and those opposed to them were dubbed as warmongers,” he said.

Dr Hilali said no one was opposed to talks since dialogue was the only way to resolve contentious issues, but the way the government had pursued the process, it had isolated commoners, making them question the whole exercise.

“Isolating people makes part of the psychological warfare in which everything is ignored to achieve specific results,” he said.

In such a situation, the families of terrorism’s victims shouldn’t expect dispensation of justice as the perpetrators of terrorist activities can’t be brought to the courts for trial.

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