Imran’s inner confusion mirrors turmoil of the nation
Imran Khan’s sundry pronouncements (or his absolute silence) on the evil doings of the Taliban usually set off a chain reaction of much colourful comment and remark among politicians as well as the pundits, which latter nowadays mainly happen to be the frantic television anchors. The charismatic PTI leader, for all the legendary glory he earned in the cricketing arena and his philanthropic exploits, is still considered a political novice by many, despite being on this treacherous and bouncier track for over fifteen years. His utterances, especially on the war on terror and the Taliban are mostly mocked at, ridiculed and patronisingly dismissed as being the views of an entirely confused and essentially naïve person. As for being understood, never. So it was with his controversial (some would say scandalous) contention that the Taliban be permitted to open an office in Pakistan a la the Afghan Taliban in Qatar, a ceasefire declared and dialogue begun with them within the ambit of the constitution. The mediators or the guarantors of the momentous agreement, if any, would be the people of the tribal areas themselves. That is, if the establishment really believed in the decisions of the All Parties Conference, thus maintained Imran.
The statement drew much flak with the JUI (F) leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman terming it as ‘childish’ and the ANP sarcastically declaring that ‘with Imran Khan around, why would the TTP need an office.’ There was some disagreement even within the PTI’s ranks, with leading light Asad Umar calling it Imran’s personal opinion and not party policy. Indeed, coming on the heels of the TTP’s acknowledged assassination of an army general in Dir and the terrible suicide bombing of the church in Peshawar, for which it belatedly and ambiguously disclaimed responsibility, the timing of Imran’s feelers towards the Taliban can only be described as terrible, as public opinion too was much perturbed at these two incidents. To compound matters, it is no secret that the military is no longer well disposed towards a tête-à-tête with its creation and former yes-men.
Still, Imran’s apparent inner confusion also mirrors the turmoil of the nation as a whole, for no mainstream political leader seems to have thought out the Taliban problem through with vision and common sense, keeping in mind the ground realities. Among the latter, apart from the Taliban’s continued attacks and heinous acts, are their disavowal of the Constitution of Pakistan and their fixed idea of setting up an Islamic Emirate, not to mention their impossible to meet preconditions such as the list of 50 prisoners to be released and the withdrawal of the army from FATA – a rather tall order and not entirely free of insidious intent. Remember, the Afghan Taliban’s Qatar office closed soon after its opening, despite being promoted by a war weary (at least in the Afghan theatre) US. With the latter hightailing it in 2014, the shape of things in the whole region is difficult to foretell, there being so many questions and computations. If Imran’s suggestions of opening of the office and a dialogue does turn into reality, it would only be despite the Taliban’s best efforts. And it would not be without inherent dangers.