faceless enemyDialogue is the Best Option

By General Mirza Aslam Beg

The headlines of the day:  “PML(N)’s MPs yearn for operation against Taliban”, prompted me to write these lines, because I firmly believe that launching of military action in North Waziristan would amount to courting disaster. The past history of the Pushtuns and the consequences of the military action of 2004 in South Waziristan, provide the reasons to seek peace through political negotiations.

The Durand Line was drawn in 1893, between the British Government of India and the Afghan King, Ameer Abdul Rehman Khan. The purpose was to divide the Pakhtun nation, but it could not.  The king at Kabul could rule only with the approval of the tribals living on both sides of the Durand Line. During the 1970s the Soviets installed a proxy government at Kabul which was challenged by the Mujahideen – the Seven Leaders Resistance, which ultimately led to the overthrow of the government and defeat of the Soviet forces. The Mujahideen who had won should have formed the government at Kabul, but they were cheated and drawn into a civil war. Out of the civil war emerged, the Pakhtun Resistance, called Taliban under Mulla Umar, which gained control over most of Afghanistan by 2001, till America and the allies, including Pakistan, invaded and occupied Afghanistan.

In 2003, Jalaluddin Haqqani visited Pakistan. I had the privilege of meeting him. He told me that the Taliban and the Mujahideen were joining hands together to wage the war of resistance against the occupation forces. I tried to convince him that there was a better option to peace and freedom, in supporting the American agenda of democracy in Afghanistan, because, Pakhtuns who enjoyed majority, will form the government and gain political power to freedom. He offered no comment, but promised to answer after consulting Mulla Umar. Two months later I got the answer:

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“We have decided to fight to the end to win our freedom. For us to follow the agenda of the occupation forces is not compatible with our traditions, our national ethos and purpose. We will fight and win our freedom, Inshallah, even if Pakistan does not stand by us.”

Now after twelve years of brutal war, the Taliban, under Mulla Umar have won the war against the mightiest of the mighty, who are on the retreat. No one dare come in their way to form the government at Kabul. Northern Alliance and Karzai will join them. It will be a more stable government than the Taliban government of 1996-2001, because, at that time there were seven leaders of the resistance, working under CIA and ISI. Now there is only one leader, ie. Mullah Omar, who is also their commander. And there is another big difference. The hard-core of the Taliban now consists of the Afghan youth, born during the last three decades, have grown under the shadows of war, enjoying no luxuries of life. They are diehard fighters, having decades of fighting experience, they form the hard-core of the freedom movement.

The Taliban already control ninety percent of Afghanistan have enforced their law over these territories. The 25 million Pakhtuns of Pakistan share a common destiny with the 17 million Pakhtuns of Afghanistan.  No ruler at Kabul could govern the country without their consent. Their influence and reach now may well extend to Islamabad also.

General Musharraf was tricked by the Americans, who made him believe that the master-mind of the Rawalpindi attacks on him was in South Waziristan. Without a second thought Musharraf launched a full fledge military operation in South Waziristan, killing many of the tribals and uprooting thousands who fled for their lives to different parts of the country. The process has since continued unabated. Under the cover of these Internally Displaced Population (IDP) the armed tribals and terrorists also have found refuge in places like Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta and Lahore. The recent military action in North Waziristan has uprooted over 1500 families, seeking refuge in cities and towns of KPK province. A major military operation if carried-out now would create a swell of IDPs, creating an uncontrollable law and order situation.

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There is a general perception that the TTP are not trust worthy. To the contrary, it is they who have been betrayed time and again. In 2004 an agreement was reached, but the next day Moulvi Nek Mohammad was killed by a drone attack. The same happened thrice, when Baitullah Mahsud, Hakimullah and Waliur Rehman, were killed to sabotage the deals. A deal was also struck for exchange of 300 x army prisoners and payment of compensation. Prisoners were released but no compensation was paid. As a protest, the Governor Lt Gen Orakzai had resigned. On three other occasions, agreement was reached for exchange of prisoners, and Taliban released our prisoners, but Taliban prisoners have not been released.

Pakistan is facing myriad problems. It would be unwise to open a new front. Better engage KPK government also to help initiate the dialogue and negotiate peace. The offer made by the Taliban for negotiations therefore must be respected, and a climate of mutual respect and trust, is to be created to make the negotiations a success. In order to give chance to peace, a four member team has rightly been constituted by the government to initiate the dialogue with the Taliban. It is an “out of the box, though not so clean shaven team, from the hat of the Prime Minister.” Nevertheless, it is a competent team and hopefully will deliver. Essentially the government has to lay down the terms and conditions of the negotiations to be operationalized by the team.

It is time now to find a peaceful solution of the problem, to disengage ourselves from the war imposed on us through deceit and coercive diplomacy. There is no alternative but to revert back to the logic of Quaid-e-Azam: “Our borders with Afghanistan must be defended by the tribals, themselves.”

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