Special Study For Opinion Maker
Talks or War with Taliban Part 3
By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
Implications of War
The war has halted investments and economic activity has almost come to a grinding halt due to energy crisis and disturbed law and order situation.
Human losses have risen several times higher than the collective losses suffered by coalition forces in Afghanistan while social traumas are incalculable.
War has made Pakistan more dependent upon USA, forcing our rulers to continue clinging to the aprons of USA despite its biased behavior.
Infighting among the Muslims suits the US designs; hence it would like the war to continue.
While the US caught up in a blind alley in Afghanistan is clueless how to exit safely, Pakistan too had no strategy to end the futile war till the start of talks with TTP.
Eleven-year war has not only given tremendous experience of fighting guerrilla war to both Pak Army and militants but also has removed inhibitions and fears of each other. Militants fear air power and drones only.
The militants could not have continued fighting for so long without external support and safe sanctuaries across the border. They are more dangerous in cities where they operate as faceless enemies with the support provided by sleeping cells.
Once NATO exits from Afghanistan, TTP will be left with no justifiable cause to continue spilling blood of Muslim brethren. Drying up of external support will wane their vigor rapidly and sooner than later they will give up fighting.
The other view is that TTP may become stronger if Taliban government get re-installed in Kabul after 2014 and may then disagree to ceasefire unless all their demands are accepted unconditionally.
Civilians living within the war zone have suffered the most in the crossfire of the security forces and the militants as well as the drones.
The low intensity conflict has caused substantial wear and tear to military’s weapons & equipment. It has also fatigued the troops living away from families and peacetime stations and living amid hazardous environment where life has become cheap.
Situation will further worsen in coming years since militancy has spread to every nook and corner of the country.
Civil administration and law courts have not established rule of law in any of the areas recaptured by the Army thereby putting added burden on the Army to hold ground, provide security and carryout rehabilitation/development works.
Opinions on war on terror whether it is our war or someone else’s war, and whether talks should be held with militants or not are sharply divided. This division in perceptions is to the advantage of militants and disfavors security forces embattled with militants.
Likewise, division in TTP has weakened the outfit considerably. Its problems get accentuated because of absence of Fazlullah, who is a pawn in the hands of Afghan NDS and RAW.
Sajna’s dissociation from TTP has strengthened the hands of security forces as well as bargaining position of the government. However, this advantage to an extent has been diluted in the wake of revocation of peace agreement by Gul Bahadur. Another advantage the TTP has is safe base of operation in Kunar-Nuristan and forward base in NW.
Taking advantage of the safe base within Mehsud belt of SW under Sajna, a military operation against the lone forward base NW preceded by increased surgical strikes may be in the offing. It will inflict further pains to the people of NW. To prevent an operation, tribal peace Jirga met Governor KP and sought move forward in peace talks.
With so many grave internal and external threats, most of which were invented and thrust upon Pakistan by foreign powers and duly exacerbated by meek and self-serving political leadership, Army’s plate remain full.
War on terror poses a three dimensional threat when viewed in context with twin threat posed by India under Modi and Afghanistan under probable Dr Abdullah.
In case of an Indo-Pakistan war, our current force structure is insufficient and ill-suited to confront three dimensional threats.
Challenges faced by Incumbent Government
Pakistan was socially, politically and economically ruined during the five year rule of PPP led regime. People voted PML-N to power so that it could put the country back on the rail. The government is faced with empty national kitty, over $70 billion external debt, energy crisis, gas and electricity load shedding, frozen foreign investment due to disturbed law and order, skyrocketing inflation and price spiral, GDP at 2.7%, unemployment, polarized political parties and society, hostile India and unfriendly Afghanistan and USA and not so friendly Iran, and Pakistan having earned the reputation of most dangerous country in the world.
Unlike the last regime, this regime although far from ideal, has relatively better will to tide over the knotty problems and has already taken some good initiatives. The only bottleneck in its way is the ongoing war on terror which is eating into the vitals of the country and has eaten up $102 billion (Rs 8.26 trillion).
Opposing Views on Peace Talks with TTP
It is making hue and cry as to why the government is insisting to hold talks with the TTP when the hands of its new leader Fazlullah are dripping in blood of people of Swat and surroundings and is a captive of Afghan government. They argue that it is pointless to hold talks with Fazlullah who has a history of breaking deals and had terrorized Swat. Those suggesting dialogue with slaughterers are termed as insane.
They say that TTP instead of reciprocating government’s goodwill gesture of unconditional talks, martyred Maj Gen Sanaullah, attacked a church in Peshawar, killed police commandoes in Karachi, slaughtered 23 FC soldiers in NW, attacked military and civilian targets including district courts Islamabad to disrupt talks. They argue that military power must be demonstrated to the adversary so that it begs for talks. They are pressing the government to deliver the hammer with full force to make them surrender and then hold talks from a position of strength.
Anti-Taliban group complain that peddlers of hate and destruction have striven to impose Shariah upon others using coercive, cruel and violent methods. Instead of reforming the society by endearing to influence the wayward and weak Muslims and guiding them to become practicing Muslims through preaching and demonstrating strength of character, honesty, tolerance, amiability, generosity and humility, the militants have been resorting to cruelty and terrorism to terrorize the people and force them to accept their brand of Islam, which they project is the real Islam.
Pro-fight elements consider drone a useful weapon to kill terrorists hiding in far off places and go to the extent of claiming that residents of FATA love drones and view drones as a good deterrent against terrorists.
Those favoring talks counter their arguments by saying that the security forces have been fighting the militants for over a decade without achieving any results and in the process, civilians, Army, police have suffered well over 40,000 fatalities and Pakistan has lost over $80 billion. They say, other than Sri Lankan and Colombian insurgencies, no insurgency could be resolved anywhere in the world through force and ultimately had to rely on dialogue to end the conflict. They quote the example of US led ISAF having used excessive force for over 13 years has finally decided to quit and is seeking dialogue with the Taliban to arrive at a political settlement.
Pro-peace groups see drone as the biggest obstruction in the way of peace and say that people of FATA, particularly women, children and elderly people have contracted mental diseases because of hovering drones. They feel that the US purposely uses this weapon to trigger terrorism and scuttle peace process. They quote examples of Nek Muhammad killed by a drone soon after he signed a peace deal, Bajaur seminary struck by a missile in October 2006 when peace deal was about to be inked, pro-talks TTP leader Waliur Rahman droned on May 30, 2013, Hakeemullah killed by a drone on November 1, 2013 when he had consented to take part in peace talks. They say, third hand helped by anti-talks lobby is hell-bent to fail the talks.
Stance of Politico-Religious Leaders/Scholars.They sympathize with the cause of militants since they too yearn for Shariah. This was evident from the lunatic statement of former JI chief Munawar Hassan terming militants as Shaheeds and denying shahadat status to soldiers. However, religious leaders, like the political leaders, are divided.
They argue that despite the fact that it is clearly enshrined in the constitution that Islamic Republic of Pakistan will be run in accordance with Quran and Sunnah, the seculars who have ruled the country for the last 66 years, have governed the country on the basis of Westminster model of democracy and Anglo-Saxon form of judicial system. Recommendations of Islamic Council of Ideology made each year have never been debated in the Parliament, what to talk of implementing them. They say, if the seculars have the right to flout the constitution, why the Islamists should be censured for demanding Islamic system of governance and judiciary?
They suspect that God forbid if Pakistan is invaded and conquered by USA, our liberal class will become collaborators and welcome the invaders with open arms and garland them as liberators having saved them from the clutches of savages bent upon imposing their will by imposing horrific Shariah. They say that it is these hateful militants who would eventually stand up and fight the aggressors to liberate their homeland as they have done in Afghanistan and Iraq and forced them to quit.
- They condone their aggressive acts under the cover of religion, saying they have a noble agenda of establishing Shariah in the country for the betterment of the poor. Misusing the name of Islam, they exploit the poverty of the youth hailing from the deprived class and mislead them to become militants and suicide bombers and kill Muslims.
The great majority which comprises of the deprived class, groaning under the weight of poverty, illiteracy and insecurity and fed up of arrogance of proud pursed elites, is conservative and Islam loving. They hate the elite class and consider our rulers as American collaborators slavishly playing US game. Talibanisation in their view is a backlash to the American centric policies pursued by our rulers to protect their interests rather than safeguard Pakistan interests. They fear that Islamic Republic of Pakistan is being turned into an American satellite.
Those driven by ignorance, or half-baked knowledge of Islam, or fear, believe that the extremist groups have taken up militancy in order to get rid of anti-poor western systems of governance and justice, and to usher in real Islam in Pakistan for the betterment of the downtrodden. While doing so, they ignore the fact that the whole social fabric has been severely traumatized.
Over a period of time, great majority has begun to realize that Islam preach peace, tolerance, brotherhood, fraternity and shun violence, bigotry and bloodshed as espoused by Taliban. They want Shariah but not the one advocated by Taliban.
Role of Wafaqul Madaras
The Ulema belonging to Wafaqul Madaras as well as other religious leaders are now unanimous in declaring suicide attacks as un-Islamic. They do not subscribe to violence and say that Quran clearly spells out that murder of one innocent human being is equivalent to murder of entire humanity. Saudi Arabia’s grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh stated that killing oneself is a grave sin and those who kill themselves with explosives are criminals and are moving fast to hell. 300 Ulema belonging to Deoband have also declared suicide attacks as haram.
Their categorical verdict should impel TTP leaders to ponder over whether it was right to train teenage boys as suicide bombers and deceivingly making them believe that no sooner they will blow themselves up, they will be welcomed by Hoors and taken to paradise. The verdict must have embarrassed TTP whose spokesman Azam Tariq is on record having stated that ‘Our Ulema have termed suicide attacks as an elite form of Jihad, which has made the Mujahideen invincible’. Misusing the name of Islam, the trainers have been exploiting the poverty of the boys hailing from downtrodden class and misleading them to kill Muslims.
Role of Tribesmen
We must not overlook the fact of history that when Maharaja Hari Singh Dogra forces augmented by Patiala forces and RSS were massacring Muslim Kashmiris in Kashmir in 1947 wanting to integrate with Pakistan and the then British C-in-C Gen. Gracey refused to dispatch Pak troops as demanded by Quaid-e-Azam, the tribesmen from FATA and NWFP formed a lashkar at their own and captured Muzaffarabad and area right up to Baramula. Had they not wasted time in Baramula, they could have easily captured Srinagar on October 27, 1947 before the arrival of Indian troops. Notwithstanding the heroics of Pak Army and Azad forces, tribesmen had played a key role in retaining one-thirds of Kashmir. Large numbers of graves of the tribesmen in various towns of Azad Kashmir bear testimony to their sense of sacrifice and valor.
I reckon, it was because of their laudable role in the 1948 Kashmir war and their solemn pledge to remain loyal and faithful to Pakistan and to defend the western border against foreign aggression at all cost that Quaid-e-Azam during his address to tribal Jirga at Peshawar on April 17, 1948 agreed to the demands of the tribesmen to be governed by British contrived flawed FCR instead of laws of Pakistan and to retain their Rawaj which is close to Shariah and to keep FC troops only along with forts, and to continue with Khasadari system. MA Jinnah promised that the government will extend all possible help in building the tribal belt and in removing socio-economic and educational deficiencies. Lord Curzon was ordered to withdraw regular troops from Waziristan within 48 hours. Article 247 provides details of the agreement.
Pakistan went to war with India in 1965 and in 1971 in addition to several skirmishes and military standoffs. Each time, Pak Army was able to pullout 7 and 9 Divisions from Peshawar and Kohat for its offensive options. People of FATA took care of the western border. In the war against Soviet forces, FATA became the base of operation and training ground for local and international Jihadis which led to the miraculous victory against next door super power. One of the reasons of this classical victory was that national psyche matched with national policy. During 2008/09 military standoff with India, Baitullah Mehsud announced that in case of Indian aggression, TTP fighters would fight along with Pak Army and provide thousands of suicide bombers. His announcement deterred India. While the tribesmen fulfilled their pledges, Pakistan government didn’t and kept FATA under developed and neglected.
To be continued. For Part 2 CLICK HERE