Talking out of chaos

Talking out of chaos
As the momentum for talks with TTP builds up, all the stakeholders should be taken on board on how to conduct and implement the peace agenda
By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/Mar2013-weekly/nos-10-03-2013/pol1.htm#3

Almost the entire commentaries on the possible peace talks with the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are focused on what and why to talk but the most important part of how talks are to be conducted and implemented has not been concentrated upon.

There is little disagreement, at least in political circles, on that talks should be held but the all important implementation stage of agreement, which was neglected in the past deals that led to their failure and restart of militancy in the country, should be focused more than anything else.

Khalid Aziz, Ex-Chief Secretary Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and a tribal affairs expert, opines the country’s political leadership is trying to build a national consensus on what to do but neglecting how it is to be done.

“Talks will be held as had already been. Hopefully, peace agreements would be signed as earlier done in Waziristan, Bajaur and Swat etc. Focus, to my mind, should have been on the implementation stage of agreements. It should be from the reverse side. It’s at the implementation stage that the real problems lie. So that stage needs more attention,” says Aziz.

“Accusations of violation of the pact by each side and differences would certainly come up. These have been responsible for failure of earlier militants-government pacts in the past. Answers to questions like who would be guarantors and responsible for implementation of the Jirga decisions, who will monitor the daily/minute details of progress on execution of agreement, what powers will they have etc needs to be discussed at length and consensus be built over them by all stakeholders. I mean there should be an elaborate implementation plan and execution structure already in place before any pact is signed,” he elaborates. “I think administrative support is more vital than political support for the Tribal Jirga holding talks.”

The Zardari-led Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the federal government and the Pakistan army have neither supported nor rejected the talks. Their official policy statement is also yet to come on the Tribal Jirga and the guarantors proposed by Taliban.

With militants continuously attacking the military personnel and installations (they released another video of beheading of six Pakistani soldiers recently), the Army may be reluctant to accept talks for the fear that it may be construed as weakness on its part.

Aziz urges the inclusion of Pakistan Army, the federal government, the KP government and all political and religious parties and other stakeholders in the process.

Though Taliban have asked Nawaz Sharif, Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Syed Munawar Hasan to become guarantors for the government and army, it is still not clear whether they themselves would give authority to the Tribal Jirga or appoint their own men for talks? And whether they would be acceptable to the government and Army?

Aziz says Taliban should be talked to as to who would be their guarantors but, “I think, they would try to solve the issue through tribal customs and prefer tribal guarantors.”

Will the Tribal Jirga have the guts to give independent decision against the TTP if it genuinely considers it on the wrong or will it pursue a policy of appeasement vis-à-vis them?

Afrasiab Khattak, the president of the KP ANP, sounds optimistic that the peace talks would succeed. “There is national consensus on three points: one, that terrorism and extremism is a problem that must be addressed quickly; two, that dialogue is the first priority and other options would follow later; three, that the problem would be tackled within the framework of law, constitution, security and sovereignty of the country,” he says.

The Central vice-Amir of JUI, Maulana Gul Naseeb Khan, is also hopeful. “We have organised the APC that was attended by almost the entire political and religious leadership from the opposition and the ruling sides. The basic responsibility of the peace talks rests with Tribal Jirga. Maulana Fazlur Rahman and KP Governor Engineer Shaukatullah will serve as a bridge between the Jirga and the parties in the conflict.” Khan says the Jirga will be extended in future and all parties will be included and taken along if needed.

“We have shown our mettle in the past. We had held successful dialogue with the militants during the MMA government. There was no operation, no terrorism when we were in power during 2002-2007,” Khan claims.

Asked whether the Tribal Jirga will be given authority by Taliban and whether the Jirga will be in a position to take independent decisions, Khattak says, “We should not go into details at this point. All problems will be solved as the process goes on. It is a continuous process. The Tribal Jirga is there and it already has started its activities and talked to the governor whose office would be a coordination office.”

Gul Naseeb Khan says waak or authority by both the contending sides is must for empowering the Jirga to decide on the problem.

Khattak argues violence and terrorism is too big a problem to be solved overnight. “The present status quo, no doubt, is unviable. It has to be wrapped up. For this, all political parties and institution should sit together to chalk out its workable alternative.”

Will the federal government and the security establishment own the talks process with Taliban? Khattak says he could give assurance from the government side but cannot say anything on behalf of Taliban. “The government and state institutions are sincere in talks. They will abide by the decisions if the talks are given political ownership by the national leadership. Our party leader Asafandyar Wali Khan will meet President Zardari, PM Ashraf and Army chief General Kayani and take them into confidence”

There is no backup plan as to what is to be done if talks fail to bring about peace in the country. When asked as to what is to be done if talks fail, Khattak says dialogue should be given a fair chance. “But if state’s writ is consistently challenged and its law and sovereignty is not accepted, then the state has the right to resort to other options and respond accordingly.”

Urgent steps

The Tribal Jirga formed by the JUI has members from all the tribal agencies. But as its members were nominated by the JUI chief and may be his party men, they may be biased towards a certain viewpoint. Unless the Jirga is expanded by including members from other parties (and this should be done quickly), it won’t get the respect and backing from the Pakistani society it needs.

There is obviously a communication gap between the stakeholders. There is a need to hold a national conference of all stakeholders. The present policy of leaving things to ‘the other’ by both civilian and military institutions should be given up.

The national leadership should take up the responsibility instead of being in the background. If Nawaz Sharif, Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Munawar Hasan and other politicians claim they are national leaders and if they think Fata is part of Pakistan and it needs to be brought under the state writ, then they should lead from the front.

A combined delegation consisting of members of the PML-N, the JI, the JUI (F and S) and other political parties, and teachers from Deobandi Madaris, military and civil establishment, judiciary, journalists, civil society etc should be formed, empowered and facilitated to start the dialogue process.

It should ask the parties in the conflict to stop attacks and halt operations. If any side ignores its request and continues with its intransigence, it should inform the nation and unite the entire nation against it. This joint Jirga should seek authority from both the sides. It will then listen to the demands and statements of both the sides separately.

tahir_katlang@yahoo.com

caption

Everyone wants peace, but how?

……..

Original text of the article as it was sent to The News

Grey areas in peace agenda and the way forward

By Tahir Ali

Almost the entire commentaries on the possible peace-talks with the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are focused on what and why to talk but the most important part of how talks are to be conducted and implemented has not been concentrated upon as it deserved.

There is little disagreement, at least in political circles, on that talks should be held but the all important implementation stage of agreement, which was neglected in the past deals that led to their failure and restart of militancy in the country, should be focused more than anything else.

Khalid Aziz, Ex Chief Secretary Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and a renowned tribal affairs expert, opines the country’s political leadership is trying to build a national consensus on what to do but neglecting on how it is to be done.

“Talks will be held as had already been. Hopefully peace-agreements would be signed as earlier done in Waziristan, Bajaur and Swat etc. Focus, to my mind, should have been on the implementation stage of agreements. It should be from the reverse side. It’s at the implementation stage that the real problems lie. So that stage needs more attention and more work on. Accusations of violation of the pact by each side and differences would certainly come up. These have been responsible for failure of earlier militants-government pacts in the past. Answers to questions like who would be guarantors and responsible for implementation of the jirga decisions, who will monitor the daily/minute details of progress on execution of agreement, what powers will they have etc needs to be discussed at length and consensus be built over them by all stakeholders. I mean there should be an elaborate implementation plan and execution structure already in place before any pact is signed,” he says.

“I think administrative support is more vital than political support for the Tribal Jirga holding talks and in implementation of its decisions,” he adds.

The Zardari-led Pakistan peoples’ party (PPP), the federal government and the Pakistan army have neither supported nor rejected the talks (it was PPP Parliamentarian, declared an NGO by federal government lawyer in Lahore high court, that attended the All parties conferences held on the issue). Their official policy statement is also yet to come on the Tribal Jirga and the guarantors proposed by Taliban.

With militants continuously attacking the military personal and installations (they released another video of beheading six Pakistani soldiers recently) the Army may be reluctant to accept talks for the fear that it may be construed weakness on its part. And will it give its authority to a Tribal Jirga, which may be apparently supportive or apprehensive of Taliban?

Aziz urges the inclusion of Pakistan Army, the federal government, KP government and all political and religious parties and other stakeholders in the process.

Though Taliban have asked Nawaz Sharif, Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Syed Munawar Hassan to become guarantors for the government and army, it is still not clear whether they themselves would give authority to the Tribal Jirga or appoint their own men for talks? And whether they would be acceptable to the government and Army?

Aziz said Taliban should be talked to as to who would be their guarantors but, I think, they would try to solve the issue through tribal customs and prefer tribal guarantors.

Will the Tribal Jirga have the guts to give independent decision against the TTP if it genuinely considers it on the wrong or will it pursue a policy of appeasement vis-à-vis them?

Afrasiab Khatak, the president of the KP ANP, sounds optimistic that the peace-talks would succeed. “There is national consensus on three points: one, that terrorism and extremism is a problem that must be addressed quickly; two, that dialogue is the first priority and other options would follow later; three, that the problem would be tackled within the framework of law, constitution, security and sovereignty of the country,” he says.

The Central vice Amir of JUI Maulana Gul Naseeb Khan, is also hopeful. “We have organised APC that was attended by the almost the entire political and religious leadership from opposition and ruling sides. The basic responsibility of the peace talks rests with Tribal Jirga. Maulana Fazlur Rehman and KP Governor Engineer Shaukatullah will serve as a bridge between the Jirga and the parties in the conflict. Jirga is to be extended in future. All parties will be included and taken along if needed,” he adds.

“We have shown our mettle in the past. We had held successful dialogue with the militants during the MMA government. There was no operation, no terrorism when we were in power during 2002-2007,” Khan claims

When asked whether the Tribal Jirga will be given authority by Taliban and whether the jirga will be in a position to take independent decisions, Khattak said we should not go into details at this point. “All problems will be solved as the process goes on. It is a continuous process. The Tribal Jirga is there. One of the major successes is that it will be expanded. An all encompassing jirga would hold talks with militants and the government. It already has started its activities and talked to the Governor whose office would be a coordination office,” he adds.

Gul Naseeb Khan said waak or authority by both the contending sides is must for empowering the jirga to decide on the problem.

Khattak says violence and terrorism is too big a problem to be solved overnight. “The present status quo, no doubt, is unviable. It has to be wrapped up. For this all political parties and institution should sit together to chalk out its workable alternative.”

To another question will the federal government and the security establishment own the talks process with Taliban, he says he could assure that from the government side but cannot say anything on behalf of Taliban. “The government and state institutions are sincere in talks. They will abide by the decisions if the talks are given political ownership by all the national leadership. Our party leader Asafandyar Wali Khan will meet President Zardari, PM Ashraf and Army chief General Kayani and take them into confidence”

Maulan Naseeb said all state institutions would back the process of dialogue which is the collective decision of all opposition and governing parties.

There is no backup plan as to what is to be done if talks fail to bring about peace in the country. When asked as to what is to be done if talks fail, Khattak said dialogue should be given a fair chance. “It should be the first priority. But if state’ writ is consistently challenged and its law and sovereignty is not accepted, then the state and the nation has the right to resort to other options and respond correspondingly.”

The JUI leader however said policies and decisions shouldn’t be made on the basis of hypotheses. “We are hopeful the talks would be successful. No such deadlock would occur. We will see to it if and when such problem arises.”

Urgent steps

The Tribal Jirga formed by the JUI has members from all the tribal agencies but as its members were nominated by the JUI chief and may be his party-men, they may be biased towards a certain viewpoint. Unless the Jirga is expanded by including members from other parties (and this should be done quickly), it won’t get the respect and backing from the Pakistani society it needs.

There is obviously communication gap between the stakeholders. There is a need to hold a national conference of all stakeholders. The present policy of leaving things to ‘the other’ by both civilian and military institutions should be given up.

 

The national leadership should take up the responsibility instead of being in the background. If Nawaz Sharif, Maualan Fazlur Rehman and Munawar Hasan and other politicians claim they are national leaders and if they think Fata is part of Pakistan and it needs to be brought under the state writ, then they should lead from the front.

A combined delegation consisting of members of PML-N, JI, JUI (F and S) and other political parties, and teachers from Deobandi Madaris, military and civil establishment, judiciary, journalists, civil society etc should be formed, empowered and facilitated to start the dialogue process.

It should ask the parties in the conflict to stop attacks and halt operations. If any side ignores its request and continues with its intransigence, it should inform the nation and unite the entire nation against it.

This joint jirga should seek authority from both the sides. It will then listen to the demands and statements of both sides separately. Then it will consider them in its private and confidential sessions. It will try first to reconcile the two opposing thoughts and if that is not possible, then it will take unbiased, neutral and rightful decisions.

This body or another implementation body made by it will be responsible for supervision of the implementation of any agreement. For this it will have far reaching powers including that of hearing the appeals and deciding on the accusations by the two sides as well as appointing, transferring, calling, arresting and jailing those responsible for violating the terms of the treaty.

(Added. Not included in the text sent to TNS) Drone attacks will have to be stopped and cease fire too will be required. The government will have to make a policy statement on talks in the parliament. The role of federal govt is vital as the centre of insurgency Fata is under its administrative control. A national conference of all stakeholders must be arranged without any delay.

 

                                                                       (tahir_katlang@yahoo.com)

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

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