The Causes Cannot Be Ignored!

By Dr. Haider Mehdi 

Many are the things that man

Seeing must understand

Not seeing, how shall he know

What lies in the hand

of time to come?”

–Sophocles, Ancient Greek tragic playwright .

A note: It is hoped that the Prime Minister and his policy advisors in Islamabad will review this article as a “Conflict Resolution Document” on its peace negotiation initiative with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. 

Mr. Prime Minister: In any conflict resolution situation, the fundamental causes of the prevailing antagonism, hostility and political clash cannot be ignored. At this time of human civilization and intellectual-conceptual advancement in understand sociology and humankind’s political behavior, the concept of “Conflict Revolution” has become almost a science. Precise political acts, the reactions to these political actions and their exact consequences can be correctly predicted by rigorous analysis and the rational-logical application of a “conflict resolution” paradigm.

An essential political-conceptual flaw in Pakistan’s successive governments to date has been to respond to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan political movement with considerable disregard and apathy to the fundamental causes of the discord. We, as a nation, are prone to impulsive, emotional and sentimental reactions to national challenges, dissenting opinions and political disagreements. We tend to focus more on our adversary’s reaction without giving due consideration and thought to what act or actions caused or triggered such specific reactions. On top of that, our national political managers in the political-military establishment have been responding to TTP’s political disputes, challenges and threats with an “ad-hoc” approach instead of establishing a cohesive, consistent rational-logical and politically correct national policy.

Indeed, the entire nation is aware that much of our political ad hoc-ism  vis-à-vis  TTP is shaped by the US and its allies’ dictates, which support the Pakistani ruling elite but are clearly detrimental to this country’s national interests. The time has arrived to remove these fundamental contradictions and political errors and go forward towards establishing permanent peace and stability in this nation. We need to move urgently and resolutely, with absolute disregard of foreign pressures, towards a national political reconciliation aimed at bringing all conflicting parties to an agreeable formula of mutual compromise, appeasement, pacification, and harmonization of national interests.

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In order to initiate such a reconciliation process and a “conflict resolution” discourse, Islamabad (for that matter the entire nation) will have to develop an acute understanding of TTP’s political behavior, their ideological demands, as well as violent reactions, with studied human empathy and political wisdom.

Consider for example, for a start, 1) The overall political dimensions of the so-called US “war on terrorism” and Pakistan’s blind and inappropriate support of a foreign military interventionist policy against its own citizens. Let us openly and candidly admit the fact that neither the Afghan Taliban government nor their Pakistani supporters in the NWFP were directly or indirectly involved in the 9/11 incident in New York. Pakistan had supported the Taliban’s struggle against the Russian occupation for their country’s liberation. And yet, a few years later, ironically and unjustifiably, we went all the way to facilitate a US and its allies’ invasion of a neighboring, friendly Muslim nation. The Pashtun reaction in Pakistan to this kind of political contradiction should have been understood.

2) The question is: In retrospect, does the Pakistani support of the US invasion of Afghanistan make any political sense?  Afghan people and Pakistani Pashtuns (staunch Pakistanis without a shred of a doubt) have commonly shared historical, cultural, and linguistic customs, family relations and strong religious views. Are we virtually blind, deaf and dumb as a nation not to admit our successive government’s unpardonable apathy towards our Afghani brothers and our own citizens when a foreign power kills their families, eliminates their dear and loved ones, destroys their homes and decimates their existence? And for what purpose: democracy, Afghan national reconstruction or what else? The fact is that the US-allies’ invasion of Afghanistan was only to extend the West’s political imperialism for its corporate capitalist global objectives. Can’t we, as a nation, understand the Pakistani and Afghani Taliban’s violent reactions (not condoned though) as a reflex response to safeguard their identity, culture, heritage, customs and historical existence?

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3) In order to jump-start a process of political reconciliation, Islamabad should offer an unconditional apology to all the Taliban and non-Taliban citizens of Pakistan and their families who have been victims of US aggression and Pakistan’s political-military establishment’s direct and indirect support of these US objectives so far.

4) Islamabad should commit itself to providing financial compensation to all victims of drone attacks within Pakistani territory. Compensation should be made for the destruction of homes, physical disabilities and treatment needed for the victims and to the families of the disabled persons.

5) Islamabad should immediately go to the International Court of Justice and the UN General Assembly to seek an end to US drone strikes within Pakistan territory as an act of war against a sovereign nation. Indeed, the entire Pakistani nation has been demanding an end to drone attacks and the international community has been vocally challenging the legitimacy of US drone warfare in many parts of the world. It is time for Islamabad to legally and diplomatically engage the US at the global level to end its aerial warfare against Pakistani citizens. As we all know, this is one of the elementary demands of TTP to start peace negotiations with the government of Pakistan.

6) Islamabad needs to initiate a global media diplomatic public perception management process to pressure the US to end drone strikes on Pakistani territory and join Pakistan in its political reconciliation initiative with the TTP. The US is a confused ally at the moment, sabotaging Islamabad’s efforts to make peace with its own citizens in the northern part of the country. Policy managers in Pakistan will have to highlight American contradictions to the Obama administration in Washington and seek the international community’s backing through diplomatic and public perception management control by international and home-based media involvement. Incidentally, a survey of opinions across 65 countries by pollster Win/Gallup International has reported that “as 2013 ends, a global poll finds that the country seen as representing the greatest threat to place today is… the United States.” Interestingly enough, Pakistan, which the US has declared the most dangerous country on the planet , comes way behind the US (US 24 % – Pakistan 8%, North Korea, Iran and Israel 5%). That looks like a good start for Islamabad for a media-diplomatic blitz to put its case before the international community to pressure the US to alter its drone warfare strategy against Pakistani citizens and come to terms with TTP’s most pressing demand: to stop drone strikes in FATA and other Pakistani territories.

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7) TTP’s demand for Sharia Law ought to be accepted. Islamabad should accord autonomy to specified areas to run their local affairs in accordance with their wishes and historical, cultural and traditional customs of justice and the community’s traditions. After all, isn’t that what democracy is all about?

8) A few more important facts for Islamabad’s political establishment and its leadership to remember: a) a Pashtun will never compromise on his/her religious views; b) a Pashtun carries a gun – but never uses it – unless it is in revenge – and revenge must come against an enemy; c) a Pakistani Pathan is as staunch a Pakistani as any other anywhere; d) a Pashtun’s faith in his/her cultural sensitivities, customs, traditions and community is indestructible come what may. There are lessons to be learned in understanding the Pashtun socio-psychology in their struggle to preserve their identity.

So, here is what I would like to suggest to Islamabad: extend a hand of friendship and reconciliation to the TPP before it is too late!

The British art critic and novelist John Berger once said: “Between the experience of living a normal life at this moment on the planet and the public narratives being offered to give a sense to that life, the empty space, the gap, is enormous.”

Mr. Prime Minister: We should never ignore the causes of the conflict!