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Future is the past

It is not easy to predict the future. In earlier times foretelling the future was the job of oracles or sibyls. The famous oracle at Delphi, in ancient Greece, was notorious for hedging her bets or being ambiguous.

The best prophet of the future is the past, to quote Byron. There is no escape from our past, from how Ziaul Haq enthroned the maulvis and Musharraf blindly led us into a war that was not ours. He thought he would reap its fruits and get away with it. It is not only about the past; what we are doing today also bedevils our future.

We know that in war, it is seldom that the ‘right’ people are killed. We also know that a war whether lost or won has far-reaching consequences. The purpose here is not to compare the merits of the operation in Fata with the negotiation route. Armies exist to show their existence in situations like this. It is their raison d’être. The lives of a warlike people have been turned upside down. The future is a convenient place for dreams — honeyed or sour. A few premises are to be established before we come to the dream statement.

Premise No 1: we entered this war with absurd logic — the strategic depth. Premise No 2: we knowingly bred and kept snakes in our backyard. Premise No 3: we depended on the most ignorant forces in our society for success. Premise No 4: the civil leadership remained aloof and complacent. Premise No 5: the disease has spread to all organs of the body ie all areas of the country. Premise No 6: Fata, the most sensitive area, has been wrecked and destabilised. Premise No 7: what is happening from Libya to Pakistan are all links of the same chain. The entire Muslim world is in the wringer.

The two ultra-sensitive agencies, North and South Waziristan, have been drained of their human contents. The third agency, Khyber, has been emptied partially. All others have suffered IDPs at one time or the other in less than a decade. After sucking out the civilian population from Waziristan, a vacuum has been created. The army will be filling it for now and will be doing to the properties and honour of the people what armies do all over the world in war situations. The army will be holding the hot potato, but for how long?

First statement: In an uprising like this there is no victory march because there is no one battlefront. If — only if — the army takes on Gul Bahadur and the Haqqani network, it would have forged a formidable alliance against it of the Afghan Taliban, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, Gul Bahadur and the Haqqanis. All are battle hardened. A messy situation is going to become messier.

Why did we name the operation after the sword of the Prophet (PBUH)? The sword was something personal to him. He did not bequeath it to any army. The symbolism is wrong. We are just being sanctimonious.

Second statement: From Bajaur to Waziristan the lives of a warlike people have been turned upside down. They have had to bear the ignominy of camps and much more. In their wanderings, they will not be thinking of going back to their non-existent houses or looted properties longing for status quo ante. Their suffering will certainly change their political thinking. Venom is collecting in their hearts. Let it be known that they had given their allegiance to Pakistan conditionally. In what channels will the venom flow out is the stuff of prophesy. The moment is fraught.

Third statement: I am convinced that the Taliban would have made it to Islamabad had they not taken the wrong turn. In the beginning they were providing speedy and inexpensive ‘justice’, putting doctors and lawyers on notice for overcharging, officials for corruption, punishing profiteers and those spreading ‘obscenity’.

It led to their meteoric rise. It was when they decided to serve God instead of the people that things went wrong for them. They took up causes without substance, in fact barbaric. They failed to realise that the people wanted social justice, jobs and education to realise their full potential and ability. They have lost the battle for the people’s hearts and minds but they are not going to vanish anytime soon.

Fourth statement: The war to end war will not be fought with guns. Chaos gives rise to order. It will not remain chaotic forever. A positive force will ultimately rise to finish the forces of ignorance and the power brokers, present and waiting in the wings, even if such a force does not seem to be in the offing at the moment. Much would have changed by then but I hope not the geography of the area. Great wars, long wars always alter geography.

The writer is a former federal secretary. raufkkhattak@gmail.com

A. Rauf Khan Khattak, "Future is the past," Dawn. 2014-07-17.
Keywords: Social sciences , Social issues , Social needs , Social aspects , Haqqani network , Taliban-Pakistan , Gen Musharraf , Gul Bahadur , Prophet Muhammad , PBUH , Gen Zia ul Haq , Waziristan , Pakistan , FATA , TTP