Let me know, Mr Khan

How can we negotiate with criminals and terrorists?

Mr Khan, how do you think this process of dialogue with the Taliban must commence with? What forum is the best for this purpose? Who are bad Taliban and who are good Taliban, the terms you use to distinguish between them? Where has this concept of good and bad terrorists originated from? And how precisely will you be able to go for the good Taliban?

Mr Khan, I have no qualms in agreeing with you that brutality, state force and aggression must not be used to overcome the forces of dark, at least illegally. But does that give justification to all such evil forces to propagate their oppressive ideology? Does it mean that Pakistani soldiers must be kidnapped and beheaded openly, the brutal act captured on video only to be released to the media later on? Does it mean that criminals may go unpunished? Does that mean they should launch attacks on institutions, mosques, schools and other government installations? Does it justify challenging writ of the state through guns, explosives and mortar shells?

No, my dear Mr Khan, it does not.

Even if someone belongs to a downtrodden stratum of the society, it still does not give him the right to take up arms against the state. It does not mean that he should be aggressive against his own people or he should kill innocent kids going to schools. He must not have opened fire on innocent Malala just for having a different viewpoint from their barbaric interpretation of Islam.

Mr Khan, if someone does commit such brutality, justice must take its course come what may. Every possible force must be exploited to stop him from committing the offence. No recognition, or amnesty, should be extended to him as he is a terrorist and criminal. Neither law nor any political party has the right to award pardon to all these criminals without paying for what they have done. Khan sahib, this is exactly what our religion and law say.

Negotiations with these elements would bring nothing but recognition to such anti-state groups. Whether they are angry, deprived of certain facilities or victim of state aggression, as you claim they are, it still does not substantiate your argument of starting a dialogue with them. The state must have the authority to hold them to account, whatever the reason they claim to have to take up arms against the state, its laws, its people or its institutes.

The factors behind the crimes can put the immediate scenario in an appropriate juxtaposition. Society and crime, Khan sahib, go hand in glove. A society can neither be ideal nor can it be made so. Evil forces in human beings have a built-in mechanism, so its outcome is natural and must not be a new or a horrible phenomenon for anyone. To counter such acts, laws are made. And laws are made to be obeyed, not to be violated. When there is a question of law, morality must not be a hurdle in its way as it carries sentiments and favours associated with it. And there is a strong probability of being carried away by emotions instead of going for legal provisions.

When crime is part and parcel of any society, it must be checked through effective legislation and its strict implementation by state agencies. Since, legislation and its implementation is carried out by the state, all citizens living in its territorial jurisdiction have a liability towards such laws. Flouting or breaking such laws must have equal consequences for all.

Here, Mr Khan, I have a question for you. If a certain group commits excesses in settled areas like Lahore, or any other provincial capital, will you hold negotiations with them or would you prefer to hand them over to the law enforcement agencies for prosecution? Obviously, and I hope for sanity’s sake, the second option would appeal to you more than the first one.

Then why would you demand negotiations with the Taliban? Are they not killers and terrorists? Are they not distorting the image of Islam by telling people what our religion has never said or propagated?

Khan sahib, they must be charged separately for each distinct offence and if the state wants to do so, let it be done. Let this state, badly suffering from the cancer of terrorism, be purged of all such people doing irreparable and colossal damage to the country and the nation. If the state has authority and is supreme, let no one take up arms and rebel against it. Let it be an integrated and sovereign state, having the full force of law and supremacy of the constitution. Whatever the line of action any state determines, it must be binding on its citizens. And Mr Khan, we must not support whosoever challenges the writ of the state.

When a state exercises lawful authority, we must not assume it is committing transgression or aggression. Surrendering to state can help usher in the era of rule of law and justice. If individual choices are allowed to override the writ of the state and the constitution, the anti-state elements will bring us down, the state included, and could become a threat for the country’s integrity and solidarity.

But on the issue of drones, Mr Khan, I agree with you totally since it is not an act of the state. It is naked aggression, and I castigate it.

The writer is a staff member and can be reached at [email protected]

Ch Shoaib Saleem

The writer is a freelance journalist and a practising lawyer. He can be reached at [email protected]

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