By Saleem A Sethi, WEEKLY PULSE MAGAZINE, October 14, 2013
Taliban spokesman ShahidullahShahid has given an interview to a news website, UrduPoint in which he has talked at length about Taliban’s long-term objectives, their ideology and their immediate-cum-short-term demands for negotiations and making peace with the government. The interview is self-explanatory and doesn’t need any elaboration. However, it is necessary to have a fresh look at the stance of the political parties in general and that of Imran Khan and his Tahreek-i-Insaf in particular about talks with Taliban and the long-term ramifications of their continuous advocacy for the cause of militants.
The salient features of Sahidullah Shahid’s subject interview are:
- Taliban will not enter into dialogue with the government under the Pakistani constitution as they consider it ‘democratic’ and ‘part of the agenda of the secular countries’.
- Taliban Movement is an international movement for the defense of the Muslims.
- Taliban don’t recognize ‘borders’ of the country.
- Pakistan and Afghan Taliban are one and the same and they will always side with each other.
- Attacks on places of worship of non-Muslims are Islamic and just.
- Government is not serious in talks; it should announce ceasefire.
- Stopping drone attacks and release of prisoners is must before the initiation of talks.
- Imran Khan should renounce the secular/democratic/non-Muslim/infidel system first, if he is really interested in talks.
- This is an outdated argument to presume that Taliban will stop their campaign of terror if Pakistan got out of the American war.
- Taliban don’t believe in Sharia (Islamic system) through parliament; they believe in Sharia system build on the ashes of democracy and parliament.
- Taliban are stronger than before; they are now spreading outside the tribal areas and are eyeing Islamabad where Sharia system will be implemented soon.
There are some other points too but for fear of repetition its better to cut the list short and move ahead.
To begin with, the Taliban have ended all sorts of ambiguities, if there were left any in anyone’s mind. The questions now are; a) what further clarification is needed by the government and the political parties which support negotiations with the militants?, b) what do the political leaders want to achieve by legitimizing their activities in the name of Islam?, Who will make Imran Khan understand that his stand on terrorism issue is akin to presenting Quaid-i-Azam’s Pakistan to Taliban on a platter?, Why does the government pursue a policy which will give the initiative permanently to the people who want to implement their brand of Sharia through violent means and who are responsible for thousands of innocent civilians’ and armed personnel’s deaths?, Apart from the recommendations of the APC, what is the government’s own policy to deal with the menace of terrorism, which the outgoing Chief of Army Staff has termed an existential threat more than once?
Whenever someone objected to the idea of talks with terrorists, the Taliban apologists would say that this was unjust to oppose negotiations with them before knowing their objectives and demands. Now, when we have heard these from the horse’s mouth, what can be the substantive change that we may expect in the stands of those ‘additional’ stakeholders along with the Taliban for the resolution of terrorism issue? Will our so-called leaders still continue beating about the bush and avoid addressing it because of outright fear of terrorists and shameful ignorance of the matter.
Yes, it is a fact that they are afraid. Their wish for surrender is not due their yearning for peace; it is driven by their fear for life. They have just camouflaged it as a ‘desire for peace’. Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif top this list. The second big reason appears to be that these leaders are extremely uninformed about the causes and reasons of terrorism in the country. And they refuse to study. In fact they don’t have time to study and form an informed opinion. They are dealing it with extreme naivety bordering stupidity. And, though painful, they don’t understand what their actions and decision will cost this country and us tomorrow.
How? First, by accepting the terrorists as ‘stakeholders’, this political leadership has in fact legitimized their cause and the means they use for the achievement of their objectives; beheading of the people is just one of them. They have also equated a few hundred or a couple of thousand militants with the state. If this shortsighted leadership doesn’t comprehend it today their children will repent relinquishing the initiative to terrorists tomorrow. The justifications which Imran Khan and other political leaders are offering in their favor today will come back to haunt them tomorrow. But by that time people will be standing with them because they are unintentionally giving the militants the weapon of religion. When Imran says that we should talk to them in order to segregate them, he is factually convincing the masses that some of them are ‘good’ and ‘right’ who have adopted violence for a noble cause – that is, the glory of Islam.
When religion comes in between matters political, it becomes an independent variable. And its flag is lifted by the clergy. Anyone other than a clergyman is shunned by the people when religious matters are involved. They tend to listen only to the cleric; the Mullah. So, isn’t it tragic when politicians build a religious narrative for explaining and running the affairs of the state? Isn’t he or she signing his/her own death warrant? Ask yourself an honest question; is it the same after Zia? Hasn’t Maududi claimed the soul of Pakistan instead of Quaid-i-Azam? Didn’t Bhutto lose to the religious wave despite the fact that he tirelessly maneuvered to create an Islamic block on the international scene? And even pated Islamist elements in Afghanistan much before Zia. But he lost to Mufti Mehmud and MianTufail when it came to the demand for the implementation of Nizam-i-Mustafa in 1977. Nothing helped a ‘secular looking’ Bhutto; not Ahmadis being declared non-Muslims, not declaring Friday as weekly holiday, not prohibiting alcohol and gambling; nothing. The political slogan of that time enabled Zia to rule for eleven long years, pushing the country into an abyss in the depths of which lay Taliban, their suicide jackets and their throat-slitting knives.
But instead of realizing the gravity of the situation, our leaders became their advocates and our political parties became the militants’ ‘political wings’, justifying their actions to the people and asking for political space for them; even demanding political offices for them. Imran forgot that this will bring them at par with the state. Or he couldn’t just understand what his words actually meant. Political observers had been cautioning him against treading this path but he and his supporters abused all such people and tried to silence them.
This was also the demand of many a political analyst that Imran Khan should clarify his position as to where he actually stood politically. Was he a realist, who would do anything for the progress and development of his country? Was there a liberal soul inside that body? Was he a religious revivalist who unintentionally tried to accomplish the goals Zia had set for Pakistan? Was he still a playboy from inside and an avatar for the out? Alas! He wouldn’t listen to them. But now the advice has come from saner corners; from one of his ‘own’ people, so to speak. ShahidullahShahid has told him to come out clean and clear or shut his mouth up. No one can sail in two boats for long. Neither can Imran hold the flag of ‘change’ in one hand and that of the cause of militants in the other.
Seriously speaking, this is a clarion call for him and other religious parties and leaders like him and his party. This shows one thing very clearly; if you are a politician don’t mess with clergy and don’t bring religion to affairs relating to statecraft. Or you will be the loser in the end. The society which the Taliban are fighting for will not let you utter a word. In that society no opposing view is tolerated or accepted; no heretic has the right to live. They are striving for that universal state and society; do you still support talking to them? And which demand among the above list you intend to accept (except stopping drone strikes which are not in your hands anyway)? By the way they have also said that that they won’t stop killing innocent Pakistanis even if the country opts out of the so-called American war in Afghanistan, as you have been suggesting all along; and which you believe is the end of the story beyond which we will live happily ever after! Shahid says this is a very old argument which is no more relevant. So what really now?
And this is for the government also. They don’t recognize Pakistan as a state; they are struggling to turn it into a religious movement. They are part of a religious movement which doesn’t recognize state borders. ShahidullahShahid declares on behalf of the whole Taliban lot that ‘Sharia can’t be implemented [planted] in democratic filth’. And that they cannot hold talks with the government under the country’s constitution because they consider this very constitution as a part of the ‘secular-west agenda’. He further says that democracy is filth which can’t co-exist with Islam. So, what common point does remain there which can become a reason for hope about the outcome of these long-awaited negotiations? And if the success chances are so thin, why is our government and our mainstream political parties becoming a tool in legitimizing terrorism in the name of religion, which Zia has turned into a rival of the state as far as the question of national identity is concerned?
If religious parties are supporting this idea, there are obvious reasons for that; they have identical agendas, ideologies and objectives. After all, it was QaziHussain Ahmad who, after visiting Afghanistan illegally during late 80s or early 90s, had said on the floor of the Senate that he didn’t recognize borders between two Islamic countries. And it was Maulana Abdul SattarNiazi, a minister in the first Nawaz Sharif cabinet who has said on the floor of the National Assembly that he didn’t recognize any other constitution except the Qura’n. Round and round, one reaches one conclusion; Taliban and religious parties are one and the same. They have identical objective and that is, bringing an end to the state of Pakistan as we know it today. All of them want to turn this state into a movement which it can’t afford. They are different only in tactics.
In this scenario, Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif (or the present government) are unintentionally becoming tools for someone else’s agenda and objectives. Even that wouldn’t have been a big problem had the matter not concerned with the existence of the state as it was founded by Quaid-i-Azam and handed over to us. People have attached very high hope with them. They shouldn’t let them down. They must understand and deliver. They must save this country. They must safeguard this this society, its history and its values. They must save its people.
They must not allow the camel to poke in its nose inside the tent. They must protect Pakistan. It’s time they become leaders.