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Thoughts after the march

Published Oct 09, 2012 12:04am


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IMRAN Khan’s much-publicised Waziristan peace march is over, but it has left many questions unanswered in its wake about the politics behind the move. It would have been understandable if the march was meant to protest against the CIA drone strikes and the collateral damage caused by these illegal actions. But the very connotation of a peace march has confused its objective.

It also raises questions about the PTI’s understanding of the highly complex nature of the conflict and security issues in the tribal areas. US drone strikes and the Taliban’s war against the Pakistani people and the state are two separate issues which Mr Khan tends to confuse.

His statements calling the Taliban stakeholders in peace amount to a cruel joke for the thousands of victims of suicide bombings and terrorism. This policy of appeasement, however, has failed to work with the Taliban who declared Mr Khan “a Westernised secular man”.

But to his credit, Imran Khan has taken a consistent position against the CIA’s controversial drone war in Pakistan’s tribal areas. He indeed represents the sentiments of an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis who see the relentless Predator strikes on their soil as immoral, unethical and inhuman.

There is growing evidence of a large number of civilian casualties despite the claims of precision attacks on high-value targets. The legality of the remote-controlled drones is being increasingly questioned by the United Nations and international human rights organisations.

Indubitably, the PTI’s rally has been successful in further highlighting the insane use of mechanical weapons of destruction to carry out extrajudicial killings. The participation of members of American and other human rights groups in the march also helped draw international attention to the illegal drone campaign. Predictably, the rally was stopped short of its destination of Kotkai village in South Waziristan, but that was just a symbolic point on the map.

The anti-drone campaign, however, cannot be effective without a clear and overarching anti-terrorism policy which Imran Khan has failed to offer. In fact, his sympathy for the Taliban and the so-called jihadists has blurred the focus of his anti-drone campaign and sent a confused message to his own supporters. It is not enough to condemn isolated incidents of terrorism. More important is to draw a clear political and ideological line.

The Taliban and other militant factions are engaged in armed insurgency against the Pakistani state that has nothing to do with the US drone campaign in the tribal areas. The militant violence has killed many more Pakistanis than those who have died in drone attacks and has incurred incalculable economic losses. The militancy presents a much greater threat to the country’s security than do the drones.

South Waziristan, which was supposed to be the destination of the PTI’s peace march, has not been devastated by drone strikes, but hundreds of thousands of tribesmen have been forced to leave their homes in the area as a result of the fighting between Pakistani security forces and the Taliban.

Indeed, the use of military force alone is not the solution to the rising militancy, but it cannot be avoided when the writ of the state is challenged. The military operation in South Waziristan had become unavoidable in 2009 after the Taliban had turned the region into a base for terrorist attacks targeting security installations and civilians. It was from here that the Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud is believed to have plotted the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

If he had been allowed to go to Kotkai, once a major training centre for suicide bombers, Imran Khan would have found a deserted place. Its entire population was forced to leave because of the fighting. It has been three years now since the military operation started, but the village is still not safe enough for the inhabitants to return. That may also have been the reason that the rally was not allowed to go beyond Tank, the last post before the tribal territory.

It was soon after a military operation in 2009 that I visited the devastated structure of a building in the centre of Kotkai village which was used to train suicide bombers. Run by Qari Hussain, one of the most ferocious Pakistani Taliban commanders, the centre had produced hundreds of suicide bombers, many of them as young as 10 or 12 years old, who had wreaked havoc in Pakistani cities and killed thousands of innocent women and children. Certainly those responsible for using innocent children as human bombs do not have any stake in peace. Imran Khan in his interviews often supports negotiations with the militants. But past experience has shown that peace deals have only been used by the militants to gain more space and reorganise themselves. The case of Swat, and South and North Waziristan are the biggest examples. Swat was virtually surrendered to the Taliban when the government signed a peace deal with Mullah Fazlullah. The militants were driven out from the region, but the hold of the government is still tentative.

A major question is how one can negotiate with those who seek to impose their retrogressive ways on the population through brute force. How can the state reconcile with the forces of fanaticism that are bombing schools and beheading those who do not subscribe to their obscurantist worldview? Their campaign against immunisation has put hundreds of thousands of children in Fata and areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at risk of polio and other diseases.

It is not the drones that are responsible for the rise of this regressive mindset and violent extremism in the country. It is a grave mistake to link the two. The drone strikes are now limited to North Waziristan which has also become the main hub of foreign fighters and Pakistani militants. While opposing the use of drones, one must not lose sight of the threat posed to regional security by militant sanctuaries in the area.

The writer is an author and journalist.

Twitter: @hidhussain


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (33) Closed

pathanoo Oct 09, 2012 09:07pm
Kudos, NASAH.
gv Oct 09, 2012 09:39am
@yousaf rahman i think the writer means that IK and co need to present a coherent strategy on how to deal with militancy in Pakistan esp vis a vis the TTP and other organised militarised outfits
Riz Khan Oct 09, 2012 08:42am
Forget about politics but simple question I need to ask ANP, PPP and other stooges. I am from Charsadda, Imran went to Tank, Asfnadeyar should try coming to charsadda, PPP should go to Kohat, Zardari to attend public meeting in Islamabad in open air. We need leaders who stand among us not the one who live in fortified places and gaining weight.
Sri1 Oct 09, 2012 11:43am
IK may "categorically condemn all terrorist acts", but he is not taking a Peace March against Suicide bombers and blatant sectarian violence. He is taking a march clearly against Drone attacks! Even Afghans and Waziristanis consider drone strikes more accurate with less collateral damage as compared to the earlier bombings. Looks like most people cannot think with their minds instead of bleeding hearts and testosterone. Drone attack casualties: Highest estimates of total-deaths from U.S. Predator Strikes 2004 - 2011: 2004-07 112; 2008 314; 2009 725; 2010 993; 2011 536 Total 2680 killed in 8 years Terrorism and sectarian attacks (casualties and injuries) in Pak 2006 - 2009: 2006 907 and 1543; 2007 3448 and 5353; 2008 2267 and 4558; 2009 3021 and 7334 Total 9643 killed in just 4 years !! Please check those figures up anywhere if you don't believe. Four times people killed in sectarian attacks compared to Drone strikes in half the number of years!! I rest my case. IK is just fishing for electoral gains, not beneficial to Pakistan and Pakistanis.
Khan Oct 09, 2012 05:28pm
Which party is really serious these days? The difference is that at least IK knows what he is doing for his country and all others only know what they are doing for themselves.
Usman Ajmal (@dodgy_helmet) Oct 09, 2012 01:54am
For once, I would like to see a high quality critical analysis like this of other main stream parties. Ever heard of PPP, PML-N, ANP, MQM? They are in power and their silence is more deafening than PTI's 'shor', they only speak up to belittle or criticise Imran Khan. PTI is not a state institution, it's a political party and it is doing everything right to engage all sections of the Pakistani society, including FATA and Balochistan mind you. So a certain level of 'vagueness' and 'space' in it's stance is absolutely essential. Tomorrow if Imran Khan starts making unequivocal statements on these issues, it will make good reading in the newspaper but will never benefit PTI. This is politics my friend.
observer Oct 09, 2012 10:19am
Imran Khan is not serious. He just wants to secure a big victory in election. For that he can do anything and say anything. I wish he had aligned his party more with the mainstream thinking and expectations of his potential voters than his personal priorities. But then IK's personal priorities are what PTI is all about. Anyone joining or voting for PTI must promise full surrender to what IK's experiences about life and events are. It is not strange that he has got support from young people most of whom are not mature thinkers. People are somehow attracted to the childish claim that IK's hands are clean and other politicians are 'corrupt'. Too superficial.
aj Oct 09, 2012 08:47am
I never seen positive thing about IK in dawn newspaper and they are very personal with IK and give us wrong information but they have forgotten that now days you can not keep information hidden and it easy to get information and still our writer lives post internet era.... What IK has done in peace march regardless of where he done it get the attention of world media. I am not sure nawaz or zardari or any other leader in pakistan has leadership and quality that could attract international media that IK is doing. So support Good cause regardless who is doing and stop publishing rubbish just to fill your paper with bullshits.
James Oct 09, 2012 01:26pm
One is with words and the other with actions.Why no peace march for the thousands killed by suicide bombers.
sbkhattak Oct 09, 2012 06:13am
Writer is trying to confuse the drone with taliban. Peace March was to protect the innocent from illegal drone strikes not to pardon the taliban for their brutal attacks on Pakistani. those who are opposing the PeaceMarch should openly ask US and Pakistan government to bomb each inch of tribal areas so niether the taliban nor their supporters will survive. They damn care if innocents are killed
Dr Altaf Hussain Rahman Oct 09, 2012 06:03am
An interesting aricle which gives a logical insight into the complex problem which we are facing as a nation. Myself as an expatriate always wonder that when all these problems will come to an end so that we can peacefully come back to our wonderful country.Mr Zahid Hussain is a seasoned jounalist and I congratulate.him for this articulate article.I sincerly hope and pray that all of our problems come to an early end though it seems remote. .
Shakeel Ghouri Oct 09, 2012 04:19am
Drones may be effective in dealing with terrorism, and minimizing it to an extent. But the collateral damage and lose of innocent lives thereby is also not to be neglected. This is adding more to the terrorist recruitment and thus enhancing the menace. The proposal of sharing drone technology which Pakistan has recently put before US needs to be scrutinized and implemented. It will help to mitigate the severity of these lethal attacks which are causing innocent lose and desroying Pakistan's social and economic fabric. This sharing of technology is essentially effective because Pakistani state and military know it better than US that which areas are to be hit and which not.
Haroona Gul Oct 09, 2012 04:32am
I cannot comment on the complexity of the situation but it is because of this march that CNN has been forced to carry out a survey on drones.
NASAH (USA) Oct 09, 2012 03:14pm
And let me see how long it takes Imran Khan to condemn that criminal Ehsanullah Ahsan who takes credit for putting a bullet in the head of a 15 years old girl. Speak Imran -- where do you stand on this despicable crime?
Tahir Oct 09, 2012 11:23am
get educated and read PTI web carefully, all of IK's interview you will get the answers
Tehreem Oct 09, 2012 10:27am
Let me spell it out for you. IK is against suicide bombings and other terror related killing. But unlike stone headed policy makers, he targets at the root cause of terrorism. You do the same as well to make this a better world. We are not confused. !
Ahmad Saleem Akhtar Oct 09, 2012 11:05pm
I find this piece a bit cruel. I take exception to your view that U.S drone attacks and Pakistani Taleban have no linkage.It was this so-called War onTerror, and Pakistans thoughtless plunge in this war, that gave birth to Pakistani taleban. Drone attacks have heaped more misery.They are, as stated by Mr. Hussain, immoral, unethical and inhuman, as well as illegal and counter productive. When Imran Khan and a vast majority not only in Pakistan, but also currently, in the West are talking about negotiations, it is because they have all come to believe that this is an unwinnable war. We have to be realistic ; 11 years of assault by the worlds only superpower, aided by Nato and Pakistan has not achieved much. For our part, we have seriously alienated a once staunch ally in Pashtun tribes. Talking to IRA was once considered a cruel joke by the British. These talks were held after decades of mayhem,and peace has been achieved. Mr. Zahid Hussain is right to question the efficacy of bilateral talks with Pakistani Taleban. The only way to peace must be negotiations between all the parties i.e US/Nato, Afghanistan, Pakistan and all factions of Taleban. I know it is a tall order, but the status quo i.e, more of the same, as presumably favoured by Mr. Hussain is taking us nowhere. Americans seem to have realised it. It is about time we do too. When striving for peace,one does not have to agree or even sympathise wth the adversary.
Bakul Oct 10, 2012 12:38am
It is the other way. Terrorism is the root cause of Drone attacks. First came terrorism and then came drones. If IK is agains suside bombings / killings, what was his reaction when Taliban attacked on an innocent 14 year girl?
gashirazi Oct 09, 2012 02:09am
Very well said. You hit the nail on the head.
Majid Rafiq Oct 09, 2012 05:40am
I have seen and heard Imran speaking about different kinds of Taliban and need to segregate them for proper strategy to eliminate terrorism threat. I cant understand why have u missed this point.. Recently he has given interviews on ARY and DunyaTV about his solution which clearly states to fight against those element who want to implement their ideology by force but after taking few steps such as de-linking with US WoT and segmenting Talibans different sections. IK has some speech communication issues where in mixes up local politics with concrete policy making and in this area he needs help....but I hope you can discuss his terrorism strategy in more detail.. why dont you interview him on this issue.
NASAH (USA) Oct 09, 2012 02:04am
Unless and until Imran Khan condemns unequivocally with no ifs and buts the daily atrocities committed by the treasonous Talibans that have resulted in thousands of deaths of Pakistani men women and children -- he would not gain legitimacy as a mainstream leader of a mainstream party. He will be treated as a fringe leader making outlandish promises doing theatrics to avoid election and bye-elections.
asd Oct 09, 2012 05:58am
Very sensible, thank you. But I don't think the PTI's stance is confused simple mindedness. It is deliberate strategy. He is playing the same game every cynical politician plays. Muddy the water and dupe the people deliberately to extract votes from as many groups as possible. Appease the right wingers with anti-drone and anti-America speeches. And dupe moderates by making this Taliban and drone causality. How people fail to see that the Taliban have made no indication that they would back off if drones were to stop. They have threatened Imran Khan for holding the anti-drone rally. How then can anybody believe IK's claim that they will stop when drones stop. What Imran Khan is doing is morally reprehensible.
zahid Oct 10, 2012 05:10am
right! i fully support ur connotations. people blaming khan of confused thoghts are not doing justice to the cause of pakistani youth
NASAH (USA) Oct 10, 2012 04:54am
And let me see how long it takes Imran Khan to condemn that criminal Ehsanullah Ahsan by name who takes credit for putting a bullet in the head of a 15 years old girl.
Zahid Iqbal Qasim Oct 09, 2012 07:12am
Imran Khan 's peace march was actually intended to get political interests.Unfortunately, he could not get them.If he had really protested against drone attacks he must have reached the victims of the drone attacks.But ,he could not reach to console them and felt gratified to have them.He was totally disillusioned.His very speech is a clear reflection of his political agendas.
Tariq K Sami Oct 10, 2012 03:28am
Let me explain. Mumtaz Qadiri man who killed Salman Taseer is a hero to many people even in a city like Lahore even The Lahore Bar Association called him a Hero. That is the the real tragedy of present day Pakistan. The whole society is rotten and lost its moral compass. A decade long war in the tribal areas has wrecked havoc and created monsters. Do not forget that girls like Malala Yousufzai have been killed on both sides in this war. By all accounts it seems that the PTI rally was a success. Mujibur Rahman Shami said there were at least 25000 vehicles and the march was almost 20 kilometers long at one point. If the young Pakhtoons join PTI rather than TT that would be a win for Imran and Pakistan. How to wean away these youths from a barbaric ideology run by the Taliban is moot question. That is what Imran has achieved by his rally to Tank.
gulab Oct 10, 2012 03:24am
Imran Khan is a courageous person. He did whatever he stated. we must all appreciate his noble task. He is " a diamond and a mud can not hide his shining face". No other politician has even a courage to go to that area where the great khan took the rally and highlighted the plight of drone attack victims. Live long Imran khan.
Sami Oct 09, 2012 07:44am
Lets have one march against these suicide bombers too to make it clear since there are many more Pakistanis got killed due to these suicide bombings when we compare this with drone attacks. And also with Drone attacks we have killed many bad people too!!!
Yousaf Rahman Oct 09, 2012 05:53am
In an interview with CNN Imran Khan said that he "Categorically condemns all terrorist acts". If that is not concrete enough for you Mr Writer you need to relearn the use of the English language.
James Oct 09, 2012 01:29pm
What difference does it make if innocent people are killed by Pakistan or US.In any case the info on targets is comming from pakistan
ysk Oct 09, 2012 09:52am
IK is indeed confused. He has flip-flopped on many things. Although PTI jiyalas dont want to see it but a neutral eye sure can.
ysk Oct 09, 2012 09:53am
Can you name anyone who in an interview has said he supports terrorism?? IF that is not concrete enough then not sure what is
gaurav, India Oct 09, 2012 09:55am
I wish he had taken a similar stand against the Taliban ...Will he ever take such a march condemning the Taliban?