Civil society activists on Wednesday held a protest outside National Press Club against the purported PTI government plan to enter into a deal with Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a proscribed terrorist organisation, responsible for the killings of thousands of civilians, politicians, police and army personnel.
They were holding banners inscribed with slogans against TTP and the government.
Prime Minister Imran Khan in interviews to TRT, a Turkish channel, and ‘Middle East Eye’ said that his government was in talks with TTP as a reconciliation process.
He has that if the world does not engage with the Taliban government in Afghanistan and help it with the economic situation then the country could regress to the stage it was two decades ago. He said such a situation would suit no one as it would trigger further instability.
This revelation has triggered an uproar in Pakistan and outside vociferously opposing any concession to the terrorist group.
Women’s Action Forum (WAF), a women’s right’s group, in a statement on Wednesday, criticized PM Khan’s revelation, describing it as a betrayal of 80,000 civilians and army personnel who fell victim to the terrorist group’s attacks.
The group said: “WAF finds it hard to believe that Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced negotiating a “peace deal” with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) when peace, as concept, policy and strategy, is neither part of TTP philosophy nor practice. Trained to kill, TTP only knows violence. It speaks no other language.”
The PM might have forgotten them, but the grief of APS killings; the loss of 80,000 lives and agony of the survivors, remains fresh in our hearts, along with memories of TTP rule of terror in Swat and numerous attacks in ex-FATA districts – requiring repeated military operations.
Nightmarish images of singer-dancer Shabana (shot six times in her genitals as punishment for what TTP called an “immoral” lifestyle); a 17-year-old girl’s body pinned to the ground by bearded men as she was publicly, mercilessly flogged by another bearded man; destruction of hundreds of girls’ schools; attacks on schoolgirls like Malala Yousafzai, bravely claiming their Constitutional right to education. The very name of Khooni Chowk in Mingora – just one site of countless public beheadings of innocent Pakistanis – bears witness to the TTP’s brutal mindset and modus operandi.
WAF reminds the PM/PTI government that the TTP’s ouster from Swat, after army action, only temporarily contained militancy – but did not change the TTP’s extremist ideology and worldview, or end terrorist activities across Pakistan: bomb blasts in markets, hotels, mosques, imambargahs, churches, temples, gurdwaras, police stations, schools, hospitals, courts, buses, railways – all “in the name of Islam”.
The PM is reminded that the TTP’s entire existence, identity and economic viability derives only from terrorism, extremism and militancy, thinly garbed in “religiosity”. Hence, why would TTP accept the PM’s offer of “forgiveness, peace, reconciliation and social integration” (mainstreaming), resulting in the TTP leadership’s loss of face and power among its followers?
While we might not question the PM/PTI government allegations of TTP-claimed terrorist attacks being funded by foreign agencies, they raise serious questions about TTP’s credibility and reliability as a future ally. Given TTP’s links and numerous networks/affiliates, how will the PM ensure that TTP gives up its nexus with hostile foreign agencies after signing a “peace deal” with the PTI government?
TTP is a mercenary militia — raising funds through violent coercion, targeting those it is paid to kill. How does the PM plan to compensate TTP’s future financial losses? Does the PTI government have the requisite financial and human resources, for doubtful de-radicalization, skills training, economic sustainability, social integration and mainstreaming?
Would it not be wise to spend Pakistan’s scarce resources on providing shelter, potable water, universal public education, healthcare, family planning, sewerage, sanitation, public transport, environment conservation, food security, poverty eradication, and access to affordable justice, to all deserving, law-abiding Pakistani citizens, whose well-being is the state’s Constitutional responsibility?
Army action entailing a heavy loss of precious lives pushed the TTP underground and out of Pakistan. How would its honourable return as the PM/PTI government’s “friend and ally” affect army morale – especially of our brave jawans and LEAs? TTP is known to renege on its promises. It declared war against the State, Constitution and Institutions of Pakistan.
If/when there is yet another failed “peace deal”, how will the PM/PTI government ask our brave jawans to lay down their lives yet again, facing such a treacherous adversary? Indeed, if the PM/PTI government is brazen enough to ask them, what guarantee is there of the military/paramilitary forces’ compliance?
Actually, TTP has already spurned the PM/PTI government’s magnanimous amnesty offer. Is anyone surprised, including the PM/PTI government? The TTP sees this offer as a sign of weakness and surrender, responding with increased terrorist attacks.
Terrorism has very serious implications for national, regional and global peace. Such critical decisions regarding TTP, and similar banned terrorist organisations, must not be taken unilaterally and autocratically by the PM/PTI government. This issue must be placed before Parliament and opened up for public debate, before any decision can be taken.
Dawn in an editorial piece wrote that “Mr Khan has been vociferously propagating this line of argument to draw the international community’s attention towards the precarious situation in Afghanistan in the absence of recognition by all countries. This argument carries weight. The UN secretary-general has himself warned that unless humanitarian assistance was speedily provided to the people of Afghanistan, they could be looking at a looming disaster in the coming months. UN officials also fear that in the absence of significant financial assistance, an overwhelming majority of the population of Afghanistan could slip below the poverty line.
In this sense, Mr Khan is speaking the right words at a time when the world seems to be turning a deaf ear to the swiftly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. Regional countries like China and Russia should also join the prime minister in raising this point at all relevant platforms and persuading the international community to lend a hand before it is too late, the leading English newspaper commented.
In the same interview, however, Mr Khan spoke some words about the terror outfit TTP that are problematic. He repeated once again that the Pakhtuns had turned against the state when they saw it aligning with the US in the conflict in Afghanistan as well as the drone strikes that killed a large number of innocent people. He essentially argued that TTP was a product of Pakhtun nationalism. This argument is dangerously flawed. The TTP is a terror outfit that fuels its narrative with religious aspirations instead of nationalistic ones. The prime minister should remember that Pakhtuns themselves have been the biggest victims of the TTP’s reign of terror.
This is not the first time that the prime minister has made this erroneous argument and it is rather surprising why no one from the government is correcting him. It would be advisable for him to revisit his controversial line of thinking before going for the next interview. More rides on his words than he may imagine. The TTP’s acts of terror should not be framed in a manner that may accord it an ounce of legitimacy, especially at a time when it has yet again unleashed violence.