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Dealing with the devil

If the loss of a Pakistani life is the ultimate damage inflicted upon this country, then the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been far more devastating than any other enemy of Pakistan. Whether it’s burning buses carrying Shias, beheading soldiers, murdering politicians or shooting little children, the TTP has done it all and brazenly even taken responsibility for it. Such has been its onslaught that it has raised our national threshold for shock.

But that’s not all. After murdering us in the thousands, the TTP now has the gall to make demands of us. This includes distancing ourselves from the United States’ ‘war on terror’, and reforming our constitution on more “Islamic principles”.

On the face of it, these demands could seem pretty reasonable to many, since these are the same demands made by parties such as the Jamaat-e-Islami, the JUI-F, the PML-N and the PTI. But while all these parties would agree on the issue of the US ‘war on terror’, one wonders if the Islamic overhaul of the constitution demanded by the Taliban is the same as that proposed by the parties.

After all, the TTP’s Islam doesn’t allow women to get modern education, but the late Qazi Hussain Ahmad’s daughter has a doctorate. The TTP declares democracy to be haram, but Maulana Fazlur Rehman and his brother are experienced politicians. The TTP considers polio vaccination to be an infidel ploy, but I am quite sure that Imran Khan’s sons have been vaccinated.

With these violations the loved ones of these leaders have been guilty of sins as per the TTP’s Islam. But then, these are ‘crimes’ that we Pakistanis consider to be our basic rights. Conflict is obvious, and so is the TTP’s preference for violence as a means of conflict resolution. So does this threat to our basic freedoms turn this into our war? Or is fighting for Samia Raheel Qazi’s education, and the health of Imran Khan’s sons someone else’s responsibility? Luckily, while these freedoms are intact for most of us, that certainly is not the case for many in Fata living under the TTP as well as the ‘good Taliban’.

However, the emphasis right now is on ‘negotiating’ with the tormentors of Fata. If you listen to Imran Khan, it seems like he is suggesting something that has never been tried before. His disappointment is so immense, and the look of triumphant vindication so strong, that you wish our rulers had the wisdom to listen to him.

But the Swat accord is not that distant a memory. The people of Swat who had voted for the most secular of political parties were suddenly assumed to be in favour of Shariah. No one ever thought about asking them, because probably the real fear was that Liberty Chowk or Jinnah Super might become the next Khooni Chowks. Therefore, in the name of ‘peace’, the Malalas of Swat were handed over to the wolves, just so that the rest of the country could be spared.

It was the TTP’s eagerness to bring speedy justice to the DHAs, E-7s and Gulbergs of real Pakistan that led to decisive action against them. Ironically, it even rang alarm bells among the non-Swati proponents of Nizam-e-Adl. The TTP apparently had reneged because the deal was to keep the beheadings, lashings and amputations limited to Swat. If this is the ‘negotiation’ that we have in mind, and if the Malalas of Waziristan are now to be permanently sacrificed at the altar of the TTP, then we are surely redefining the word Pakistani. The freedoms of Fata should be as defence-worthy as that of Punjab and Sindh.

If the collateral damage from drone strikes is an outrage, then using the same shock algorithm, the terrorisation of Waziristanis should be sacrilege. Love for the Pakhtuns of Fata shouldn’t only be expressed when the aggressor is the US, but also on their continued butchery at the hands of the Taliban, which has been far more devastating than drones.

If military operations are not bearing fruit, then why is it such a taboo to review the army’s performance? Are our freedoms up for sale just because we can’t question our generals? If Wapda can be blamed for electricity outages, and the police for a lack of crime control, why can’t the army be blamed for failures in its military operations?

Let’s negotiate, but let’s not make a distinction between a Waziristani and a Pakistani. Let’s think of them as one and then let’s choose for Wana what we would choose for Lahore and Islamabad. If it is futile to defend our freedoms, then surely it is futile to have a standing army.

Bad policing requires police reforms. Similarly, failures of military operations highlight the need for the accountability of our armed forces. Handing over Waziristan to ensure peace in Islamabad is not a sustainable strategy, because there is only so much of Waziristan that can be handed out.

The writer is a freelance contributor. He blogs at iopyne.wordpress.com and tweets @iopyne. Email: iopyne@gmail.com

Imran Khan, "Dealing with the devil," The News. 2013-02-15.