Talks with TTP

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It’s not the time to give in, it’s time to stand up

The APC convened by JUI-F came up with a five-point declaration emphasising the need for and resolve to hold negotiations with TTP, ostensibly with the purpose of curbing lawlessness in the country. The use of the word ‘lawlessness’ in the declaration instead of ‘terrorism’ that the TTP has been practising and which so vociferously has been condemned by the government and the society, is tantamount to a groveling posture towards the Taliban and turning away from the ground realities. This stance also vindicates the views of those who accuse the religious and rightist parties of having soft corner for the terrorists. The declaration underscores the need for dialogue within the ambit of the law and constitution. That again is a glaring contradiction of the legal and constitutional provisions. Perhaps the participants of the APC and its sponsors are not aware of article 256 of the constitution which says “No private organisation capable of functioning as a military organisation shall be formed, and any such organisation shall be illegal”. If the constitution declares the entities like TTP as illegal, how can you hold talks with it within the ambit of law and constitution?

While it is hard to contest the notion of resolving disputes through negotiations, it is also pertinent to emphasise that what the state is faced with is a dogma that is out to strike at the very foundations of the state and the values that the society cherishes and not a dispute in the worldly sense. Taliban are implacably anti-democracy. They desire establishing a Shariah-run Sunni emirate in Pakistan on the pattern that we witnessed in Afghanistan; they believe in exporting the model to the other nation states even through the use of non-state actors; they seek liberating Kashmir by force and cleansing Afghanistan of the infidels. They abhor education (a foremost duty of a Muslim), especially of girls as they have demolished hundreds of schools. The Malala incident is a ranting proof of their breed of Islam. And above all they do not recognise the constitution of Pakistan. They have challenged the writ of the state and killed thousands of innocent human beings.

Talking to the practitioners of terrorism and the enemies of the state means extending recognition to what they have been up to and their designs to drag this country back to the Stone Age. Advocating the holding of negotiations with such elements until they renounce terrorism and owe allegiance to the constitution of Pakistan and lay down their arms, is the most fallacious and outrageous initiative that also constitutes an affront to the religious, cultural and political values of the society. The only things that could be negotiated with the Taliban after they renounce their adopted creed are the terms of amnesty and their return to the social milieu as law abiding citizens of the state. As we know, no such development has taken place. Neither have the Taliban spelt out what they want to negotiate with the government nor has the APC identified the subjects to be discussed and the road map to achieve those objectives. The other folly on their part is that they have not taken the military leadership into confidence on this issue. In the absence of such a rapport with the military leadership any move to interact with the TTP remains a non-starter.

The notion that the TTP will abandon its activities once there is peace in Afghanistan also lacks vision. The peace in Afghanistan in the near future is a reverie to which only fools can give credence. After the 2014 scheduled withdrawal of the US and NATO forces, America will still retain control of the bases that it has built and thousand of its troops will still be there to deal with any eventuality that might threaten the security situation in Afghanistan. The US talks with Afghan Taliban are still in the limbo although some efforts have been made in this regard. One thing is beyond any doubt: that peace in Afghanistan cannot be assured without an understanding between the US and Taliban, rapprochement between Taliban and the Afghan government and between Taliban and its erstwhile enemy the Northern alliance, which still is a distant possibility. The other stumbling bloc in the establishment of peace in Afghanistan if all the foregoing issues are amicably resolved is, will the Taliban abandon their avowed objective to establish their brand of Islam in the country, which has been the basic factor in their armed clashes with the Northern alliance? The other factor to be kept in mind is that the TTP also preaches the same creed as the Afghan Taliban and there is a very strong nexus between them. Their activities are not a fallout of the Afghan imbroglio. These elements are active since the early nineties under the stewardship of Sufi Noor Muhammad, their mentor from Swat.

The war in Afghanistan may have given impetus to their anti-state activities and strengthened their resolve to implement their agenda, taking advantage of the volatile situation in the country and the region, but there is no denying the fact that they have been endeavouring to destroy the state structure in Pakistan and establish their writ through brutalising the society, much before the Afghan war. If one accepts the argument of the proponents of the talks that peace in Pakistan is linked with peace in Afghanistan, then their stance of talks only with TTP itself becomes self-contradictory. How can they detach peace in Pakistan from peace in Afghanistan?

The state is under obligation to protect the lives of its citizens by eliminating the factors that trigger law and order situation within its borders. Thereby it has to assert its writ and authority without any compromise on its constitutional responsibilities. It cannot and should not abdicate its authority to terrorist organisations like the TTP who have established their writ in some parts of the tribal region of the country. The government’s stance that it cannot negotiate with the terrorists until they lay down their arms is, therefore, beyond any reproach. The states are not run on expediencies. They are run and strengthened on the basis of values, law and the constitution. Any deviation from these universally recognised principles of statecraft can damage the state itself. The society has to make a collective decision as to whether it wants to give in to the machinations of the Pakistani Taliban or stand up to them to defend what it stands for.

The writer is an academic.