DISTRESSING signals from the highest quarters of the land indicate that an amnesty is being considered for the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, one of the nation’s most feared terrorist groups — should members of the outfit mend their ways. While speaking to The Independent, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that if TTP members renounce violence and respect the nation’s Constitution, “we are even open to giving them a pardon”.
The minister’s comments are apparently linked to reports that TTP members had been set free from Afghan prisons after the Taliban takeover of Kabul, and that the militants may be headed to Pakistan. A few days earlier President Arif Alvi had made similar comments, telling Dawn News that TTP members not involved in “criminal activities” could be forgiven.
Before the pros and cons of any amnesty offer are considered, it would be wise to briefly examine the major ‘achievements’ of the TTP. The group combines jihadist ideology with a sectarian worldview and has waged war against Pakistan and its institutions. Many thousands of Pakistanis have been slaughtered by the group. The numbers include civilians as well as soldiers, paramilitary and police personnel. In a bloody campaign, the group has attacked security installations, public venues as well as places of worship, while not expressing an iota of remorse for these murderous activities. The country’s leadership has of course added the warning that an amnesty would only be offered if the TTP renounces violence. But the group’s latest attack in Balochistan — in which a number of FC personnel were martyred — indicates that it has yet to abandon its old, brutal ways.
If the government is seriously considering an amnesty, then there are some basic facts that should be kept in mind. Firstly, an amnesty should be for some individuals, not the entire outfit, as a general amnesty is a dangerous idea. For example, low-ranking cadres that may have been ‘misguided’ and agree to lay down their arms and live according to the law of the land can be considered for an amnesty. They would need to be deradicalised and taught skills so that they can contribute to society. But even these individuals would have to be watched by the state, for there are examples from foreign countries’ deradicalisation programmes that indicate some ‘rehabilitated’ extremists often relapse into violence.
As for the hardcore militants of the TTP that played major roles in the planning and execution of some of the worst acts of terrorism this country has seen, there should be no amnesty. The state needs to bring these individuals to justice; the heirs of countless civilians and security personnel must be assured that the killers of their loved ones will face the law. If the state fails in doing so, other extremists will be emboldened by the belief that they can indulge in murderous violence, and get away with it.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2021