Monday, June 16, 2014

Pakistan: Negotiating with Militants.

The recent spate of attacks by the Pakistan Taliban, most notable of which was the attack on Karachi Airport, backed with a promise by its leadership of more attacks, scuttles any belief that negotiating with the Taliban and other militant elements is a senseless position. Imran Khan, the leader of the PTI, and who govern the province where the Taliban and co have most of their activities, was for a few years adamant that the a negotiated settlement with the Taliban was not only possible but desirable. As noble as the desire for peace and negotiating it across the table sounds the idea of negotiating with someone who says, "if i do not get my way I will fire my guns", can only be a non starter. In the wake of the attacks even Imran Khan has been quick to back the military action against the militants and he must realise that negotiating with the Taliban and co is not a feasible position. In Pakistan we have been stressing we are a democracy, and for the first time in its checkered democratic history, the incumbent government handed over power after losing in the elections to another civilian government without the ignominy of the military stepping in. Pakistan has a parliament and has elected representatives, no matter how weak the democracy may seem, so negotiating with a power group that has not got any representation from the people through the democratic process is like admitting that political groups who are well armed can hijack the 'democratic' process whenever they wish to. The statement by the Taliban that as the peace talks were faltering they have decided to take revenge and there will be more attacks is simply saying that if we do not get our way we will kill you and kill a great deal more innocent people. Imran Khan and his party should wake up and if they do want to make a difference, and a positive difference, they should simply say, 'so long as you carry a gun there cannot be a discussion'. This has to be non-negotiable, and then it as to ask what is there to negotiate? Taliban was the Shari'ah law in the country, well there already are Shari'ah laws as approved by the Parliament in force in the country! They want a society where selective education of their flavour is only allowed; ask them to win enough parliamentary seats and with a majority in the National Assembly pass the laws they want. In essence one has to wonder when one says we will talk to the Taliban one had to wonder that in a democratic system, as rickety as it may be, what can you talk to them about? The audacity of the recent attacks, and the targeting of military targets by the Taliban has infuriated the Pakistan Army, perhaps more so that the attackers were foreign nationals who form the cadre of the Taliban militant force also. The moment has really come for Pakistani politicians and the public to reject the politics of violence and there has to be no giving in to talks where the basis of a discussion is enforced through guns. The only talks that can be held with the Taliban is their disarmament and to only give them the option to be a political party that can try its luck at the polls. The politics of division especially on religious grounds where each may claim to be 'better Muslims' then others is not in the spirit of Islam, where tolerance is the creed and not the intolerance that these militants espouse. Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif and the other parties within the Parliament should all agree to a single plan on the issue of terrorism and militancy. There has to be a national program for also educating the masses on the real issues of national reconstruction and how the rigid position of the militants is against the very edifice of statehood. Any change that must happen to the social and political fabric of the country must happen through the democratic process and not through the power of militancy.

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