The APC

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That the APC would support the army and ISI was a foregone conclusion. What many wanted to see was whether the politicians were able to make the military answerable for the mess it sometime creates. Further, whether the ISI was willing to share inside information with politicians. It seems that the politicians are once again content with whatever information the army is willing to pass on and willing to accept whatever claims are made. So, if the ISI says it has no links with the Haqqanis or that the leadership of the militant group is no more in Pakistan, the politicians accept the claims on face value. One had also expected that the politicians would get something in return for their much needed support, like greater say in forming foreign and defence policies. This too has not happened. The army, it appears, would continue to take whatever decisions it wants and feel assured that it would always be bailed out in the name of patriotism in case of a failure.

Keeping in view the economic compulsions of the country and its reliance on the US for trade and aid, a modicum of realism was bound to influence the unanimous resolution. Despite about a dozen religious parties having been brought to the conference, the US was not mentioned by name in the resolution. The resolution rejected without any finger pointing the ‘recent assertions and baseless allegations’ made against Pakistan. “The Pakistani nation affirms its full solidarity and support for the armed forces of Pakistan in defeating any threat to national security,” the unanimous resolution stated.

Again despite demands by all religious parties and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) to review the foreign policy vis-à-vis the US, the policy guidelines advocate maintaining friendly and cordial relations with all countries of the world with the proviso that they are based on sovereign equality, mutual interest and respect. Thus despite the recent saber rattling the government can continue to do business with the US as usual.

The joint resolution, however, endorses the position of the religious parties in one important sphere, dealing with internal terrorism. Recognising the need for a policy with a focus on peace and reconciliation, it gives primacy to negotiations over military operations in dealing with militants. Pakistan, it is maintained, must initiate dialogue with a view to negotiate peace with “our own people in the tribal areas.”

There are two major types of extremists united in a loose federation. A section representing the extremists believes that they have to implement their peculiar version of Islam out of sync with the times in their country and then the rest of the world through force of arms. Others like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jundullah believe they have to kill Shias who are considered by them apostates liable to be executed. Attempts in the past to reform the sectarian terrorists have failed. There is simply no chance of persuading them to abandon militancy.

Four years back, talks were initiated with the Swat chapter of the TTP. It was maintained by those who advocated negotiations that the unrest in the area was caused by delays in the legal system and if the extremists’ demand for Qazi courts was accepted, they would stop burning schools, attacking government installations, destroying hair dressers’ saloons and blowing up video and music shops. Talks were initiated with them by high level government leaders and civil servants. Subsequently Qazi courts were also set up.

Instead of encouraging the extremists to join the mainstream, the parleys were seen by them to be a sign of weakness on the part of the government. The act of appeasement led the leadership of the Swat militants to reject the constitution, parliament and the courts of law as symbols of an un-Islamic system which had to be demolished through militant struggle. They subsequently declared that their ultimate goal was to enforce their own interpretation of Islam, first throughout Pakistan and then the rest of the world.

They also denounced the concept of the nation state and maintained that Islam had to be imposed on the entire mankind irrespective of geographical boundaries. All countries dominated by non-Muslims were to be given the choice of either accepting Islam or facing terrorist attacks.

The talks for peace in Swat were used by the militants to collect arms, enlist more recruits and regroup. They expanded their influence to areas the army had earlier forced them to abandon. It was only after innumerable sacrifices by the people and the armed forces that the writ of the state could be re-established in region.

There is no argument in the world that can convince groups like LeJ and Jundullah to live in peace with the Shia community. In 1995, 11 religious parties joined hands to form the Milli Yekjehti Council to resolve the sectarian differences peacefully. Their efforts spread over years failed to drive sense or fear of God in sectarian terrorists.

Good relations with Haqqanis have in the past led them to desist from launching attacks inside Pakistan. They could not however be persuaded to stop using Pakistan’s territory to launch jihad against the US-led troops. Jihad is considered a religious duty by numerous other groups also presently operating from the tribal areas. No responsible state can allow its territory to be used as a launching pad for terrorist attacks on other countries. Giving peace priority might be a good slogan, it has no chance to succeed with militant groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

The writer is a former academic and a political analyst.

1 COMMENT

  1. 'That the APC would support the army and ISI was a foregone conclusion. What many wanted to see was whether the politicians were able to make the military answerable for the mess'

    Excellent analysis about ABC. The answer, unfortunately, to the above statement by the writer is a big NO.

    This is the whole problem. The political leaders have always been under the thumb of the military and their mentality has not come out of the submissive attitude.

    Once again the politicians are in utter denial on the advice of their masters in the GHQ. The repercussions of this denial may be worse in time to come.

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