Talk to PTM

  • Right thing to do

The KP government’s formation of an advisory committee to address ‘all social, political, administrative and development issues’ faced by tribal areas is welcome, especially since it has also been tasked with holding talks with aggrieved parties including the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM). The initiative can hardly fare any worse than arresting their workers, slapping terrorism charges on them and preventing them from travelling even within the country. Dissent, as long as it is not violent, does after all have a place in a healthy, growing democracy. And haven’t we all learnt after all the conflicts we have been through in this region that no matter how long anybody fights, eventually they have to sit and talk it out?

Besides, didn’t Prime Minister Imran Khan himself offer, not too long before the election, to mediate between PTM and the so called establishment? They are our own people, said Imran Khan, and they feel victimised and mistreated. That would imply that PM Khan also favours a less hostile and more mature way of handling phenomena like the PTM. And now that his party is in power, one hopes the KP initiative is the first part of his policy in action.

Incidents like arresting PTM workers in Multan under terrorism charges the other day or denying scores from gathering in Sindh a little before that serve no purpose in the long run. Perhaps this movement would never have grown so strong had the security apparatus not responded so strongly to it. There is, going forward, reason to believe that once serious negotiations take place, genuine grievances can be addressed and false perceptions quickly corrected. It is important that PTM now think very carefully before blowing too much unnecessary steam and rejecting the talks at this crucial moment. This is the closest they have come to getting genuinely heard. The KP committee will not comprise just government functionaries, but will have wider political representation, which is encouraging. All sides must look to advance the process, not retard it.