One single remedy, and it’s not ‘talks’ – never was
I was soaked in euphoria. Having just returned from my first real holiday in a forgotten number of years and having rediscovered the romance of train travel, though in thoroughly modern trains, disembarking at centuries old stations glowing in tradition and history. That was to be my article today, to share my world on Cloud 9. Then to my chagrin, the devil, abusing the name of God, unleashed carnage upon the innocent yet again.
Barely had I finished emailing a dear friend connected with Nairobi to enquire if all was well after the monstrous bombing in a Mall there two days ago that news erupted about this barbaric attack on the heritage Church in Peshawar. Words are absent as utter disgust fills the veins. What can one say? What is there to say? Like every heinous act of vicious, cold-blooded murder, however you may wish to describe it, this one too has shattered faith in humanity.
There is but one answer to this, one single remedy and it does not involve “talks”. It never has. And it has reached this uncontrolled state only because of national and international dithering as to the resolution. Pakistan’s star cricketer interrupted the meeting of his political committee and rushed to Peshawar amid releases in the press and social media. To what avail? The thousands grieving can’t be comforted with mere words and a hand on the shoulder. What they have lost is gone forever. It’s not a cricket match that can be replayed next week.
To combat this evil requires moral courage even more than physical courage. It isn’t easy for governments and their armed forces to turn on one’s own but they must know that this time it isn’t them but it is a faction of “their own” that have turned on them and their country. Acts of relentless barbarism perpetrated against the innocent people of Pakistan must be controlled by the security forces paid by the people to do so. The politicians elected by the people have committed to protect their people on oath. Talk of talks with terrorists is defeatist. It stems from accepting knowledge that there is no way of stopping them without compromise. And the terrorists are aware of this witnessed by the fact that they propose conditions to be implemented even before they appear on table.
In the run up to the elections voices supported the view of PTI with its overt support for parleys as the ultimate solution. Election results apparently were proof of this. The day after all hell broke loose in KP. Defectors to PTI in parliament were gunned down. High security prisons were attacked, dangerous criminals broke free, bombings and killings increased. The CJ of Peshawar High Court had to rule that it is unsafe for security personnel to be withdrawn from Swat. Notwithstanding all this, Imran Khan vented that the APC was just an eyewash and the “boots” were being sent in. Let me ask him; is there another way to resolve this? The tragedy is that “the boots” are perhaps not ready to go in.
Imran’s naiveté and thus the plunge into misguided populism aside, Nawaz Sharif’s government should have the experience of thirty-five years on the political scene to guide the nation in this crisis. It was his government that took the courageous stand and reversed Bhutto’s hasty implementation of Friday as the national holiday, then considered as sacrilege. His governments took many more bold decisions, some right and some very wrong. Today’s government, at least 100 days of it, reveals the tiger has lost many a tooth and energy has sapped or been absorbed by gilded sofas. The US, the major player in this War, is itself unsure of its strategy. It is encouraging talks one week, then considering action the next, with no clear direction. Pakistan is doing exactly the same. What Karzai wants is something else. With this political platform and these confused thoughts no successful action can be planned to battle terror.
The army has lost many in this prolonged battle. Where they have intervened with ferocity they have been successful. Swat was cleared and is kept clear. The same is the case, to a large extent in South Waziristan. But they have a huge challenge. They are not equipped as a force to fight guerilla warfare, although some contest this based on the historical facts in Kashmir. And yes they have fronts open now both in the North and the East. No army takes losing generals to terrorism lightly, as it does not to have its installations, including its HQ, attacked. But it is clear that Gen Kayani wants the political government to order and back any action taken by the army. And he is absolutely right.
As I have written numerous times, the election rhetoric based on ‘talks’ as a solution to the problem of terrorism set a false target. That could never have been a reality; it was just a gimmick. It would and it did very quickly dissipate the moment reality dawned upon the new governments. Imran may have been out of it and information filtered in through connections but PML-N was in power and had access to all the intel. It is not a revelation that the terrorist organizations in the country do not have a central command. They operate under their own banners and strategies. There is no single person to talk with.
The TTP on the other hand have as their “Rehbar”, Mullah Omar, a foreigner with certainly no love for Pakistan. And they too have multiple factions within the country. So whom are talks desired with? And even if they do sit at table, after accepting preconditions, what results are expected? The enormity of the issue denies easy solutions. The quantum of money, arms, logistics and strategy deployed in this is astounding to say the least. The stakes are obviously equally astounding one must believe. The ones who will talk are probably just “fronting”, buying time. They’ve done that successfully in Afghanistan for more than a decade and are continuing to. Perhaps there they are in the majority. Here, in Pakistan, they are not. And they do not have a Mullah Omar here in Pakistan.
So, before one emerges from the rubble and a violent minority forces a benign Pakistani population to succumb to fear and overruns Pakistan it is the responsibility of the government to take a categorical decision of where it wants to go with this. The excerpts released of the prime minister’s intended address to the United Nations later this week bear wonderful ideals and gallant objectives. They are mere words Statesmen use to establish themselves. But words alone are never the complete answer. Intentions need to be matched by actions and this is where Pakistan can be found lacking.
We’ve gone way beyond the “do more” factor. It is now fact that “do or die” must become a Pakistani ideal because the world around us is ready to give us up. Will Pakistan implode is the million dollar question on the minds of every thinking person connected with Pakistan, both abroad and here. So we have to defend ourselves and once the US exits from Afghanistan, we won’t even have the dreaded drones to defend us. If it’s the peoples’ support the government and politicians are requesting then let them go out and ask for it. There is absolutely no doubt that there will be an overwhelming response in favour. The luxury of dithering is long gone. Imran’s naive idealism must bow before Pakistan based pragmatism and the military must voice its readiness for battle to secure the nation. The buck stops right there. History will judge you, gentlemen, for what you do or do not do.
The writer can be contacted at: [email protected].