COMMENT : Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf: the TTP’s Sinn Féin — Dr Mohammad Taqi
The original proposal to talk directly to the TTP yet again — despite its past history of signing and flouting scores of talks and agreements — is getting nowhere due to the continued jihadist terrorism
Peshawar — one of the oldest living cities on earth — is the heart of the Pashtun lands from Kandahar to Khyber and the Qissa Khwani bazar is the heart of this city. My hapless city was stabbed through its very heart when the jihadist terror struck again this past weekend, leaving at least 40 dead — 17 from one family — and scores maimed. Site of this bombing, apparently carried out through a remote-controlled device, is barely a mile from the All Saints Church where 100 Christians were martyred just days ago. It is but a few furlongs from where the lion of Peshawar, Bashir Ahmed Bilour, was slain in another bombing. The upright police officers Malik Sa’ad and Khan Raziq were martyred in a bombing not too far from this spot. Well, yet another sorrowful chapter has been added to the endless tale of blood and tears that the Qissa Khwani — the storytellers’ — bazar has been telling for years now. But as the Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa bleeds and grieves, its ruling party the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has a different story to tell and a heinous theory to sell.
The PTI spokespersons claim that the recent string of terrorist atrocities has not been committed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). They blame unknown foreign elements for unleashing this dance of death on the Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa province to undermine the so-called peace talks that the PTI champions. They assert that there are ‘fake’ Taliban within the TTP who have been put up to this by the Afghan-US-Indo-Zionist combine. They even discard the vicious Mullah ‘FM Radio’ Fazlullah’s own admission that he ordered the hit against the martyred General Sanaullah Khan Niazi, claiming that Fazlullah is not ‘TTP proper’. PTI’s Chief Minister Pervez Khattak has blamed even the media for somehow triggering the bombings! Another absolutely rubbish idea peddled by the Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa’s Information Minister Shah Farman is that the present mayhem in that province is somehow related to the bombings that took place there in the 1970s-80s and were blamed on the nationalist and communist governments of Afghanistan then. Never mind the political context then and now and that just the recent church bombing killed more people than all explosions of the 1970-80s put together.
Not to be outdone by his lieutenants, the PTI chief Imran Khan demanded the TTP be allowed to open its office in mainland Pakistan to conduct talks. Implied in this demand is some form of immunity for at least those TTP members who would run this shop. While some in the PTI disowned Mr Khan’s outrageous demand and comparison to the Afghan Taliban’s office in Qatar — note that it was not in Kabul or Kandahar — most of his party stood by him. The PTI’s vigorous defence of the brutal and criminal TTP, absolving it of any fault, makes the PTI look like the political face of the jihadist outfit and Mr Khan its opening batsman. The original proposal to talk directly to the TTP yet again — despite its past history of signing and flouting scores of talks and agreements — is getting nowhere due to the continued jihadist terrorism. The recent All Parties Conference (APC) declaration, which had disastrously elevated the TTP to the ‘stake holder’ level, is virtually dead now. It may be time for the Pakistani state to negotiate with the PTI not the TTP.
The PTI is particularly fond of citing the British handling of the IRA insurgency as a template for talks with the TTP. The fact is that British did not directly negotiate with the IRA but with its political wing Sinn Féin. While there is nothing common between the savages of TTP and a modern nationalist IRA, in Mr Khan and the PTI, Hakeemullah Mehsud may still have found his Sinn Féin. Let the PTI make clear the nuts and bolts of what it is demanding on behalf of the TTP. The PTI leaders are already putting up a grotesque defence of the TTP’s brutalities daily; let them now serve officially as the banned outfit’s emissaries and guarantors. It would also obviate the need for a TTP office.
The fact is that the PTI is providing the TTP prized ideological and political space as well as a tremendous amount of time to hone their machetes. Mr Khan and his confidants are actually mainstreaming a savage group that rejects the Pakistani state and its constitution and anything that is modern. Mark my words, the TTP is no Provisional IRA; it will eventually go after even Mr Khan when they have no use left for him. For now he is serving them well by muddying the waters enough to delay any operation against them. The TTP has no intention to enter a meaningful dialogue, not now, not ever. If the TTP were to accept Mr Nawaz Sharif’s naively stated conditions of dropping their guns and upholding the constitution before the talks, there would be no need for talks at all — as the TTP spokesman has already pointed out. But Mr Sharif seems quite content so long as the terrorist pyres burn down the Pashtun homes while the Punjab — his home province — is safe. Using the Pashtun lands as a buffer is neither new nor a foolproof policy and Mr Sharif will discover that soon — most likely in his present term.
Both the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and PTI invoke their recent electoral mandate to deliver peace as the carte blanche to give the TTP whatever they wish. They cannot be more wrong. These parties won an election not a referendum to pawn away the Pashtun lands to whomever they wish. The APC declaration is at best a political statement, not a constitutional one. It is not worth the paper it is written on, no matter what Mr Khan says. The APC declaration’s only significance now is that Mr Khan is using it to delay or thwart any military action against the TTP. The TTP may have the guns but it is their political face — the PTI — that is holding the Pakistani state hostage. This paralysis of the state, however, is untenable and must be upended with a robust action against the terrorist TTP and its affiliates. The Pakistan army has said that it can inflict a befitting response on the terrorists. It is time perhaps to take the army up on its word. The venue to chalk out course of such action must be the parliament, where the TTP’s Sinn Féin is represented too, not another APC.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and he tweets @mazdaki
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