Do talks with Militants mean capitulation to them?

Capitulation to militants?
Unconditional talks with TTP is seen as detrimental to peace
By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/Mar2013-weekly/nos-17-03-2013/dia.htm#5

Two All Parties Conferences, first by Awami National Party (ANP) and second by Jamiat Ulemae Islam (F) have urged talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) but is there any rationale for these talks?

Prolonged conversations with political workers and persons from different strata have revealed most are against the talks. But they wish to be anonymous while opposing them in public to avoid the militants’ wrath.

“It will help bring Peace, it is said. But have the earlier agreements with militants — Shakai (2004), Sararogha (2005), Miramshah (2006), Khyber (2008) and Swat (2008) brought about peace?” Asks a political activist.

“These agreements were explicitly pro-militants — the state halted operation withdrew troops from demanded areas, announced amnesty for, and released militants, paid them compensation etc. But all this didn’t pacify them; they didn’t stop their war against the state; instead, they got emboldened and more lethal and extended their campaign and sway to other areas,” he adds.

Some apologists, he says, accuse the state and its security forces of not honouring the earlier deals. They always support the narration of militants (anti-state elements) and blame the security forces (state institutions) for spread of terrorism and violation of these accords. “But didn’t militants agree to certain conditions but then violated them; they didn’t take advantage of opportunities given by the state; they used peace-talks as an interval for gaining more areas and strength; they continued to support foreign fighters on Pakistani territory; they killed over 35,000 innocent civilians and 5,000 soldiers and desecrated even their bodies; they least cared for Pakistan’ international compulsions.Talks with them won’t be accepted to the families of martyrs. It will mean surrender, appeasement and our capitulation to them. These can be held only if they surrender and accept the state sovereignty; there is no other option than to do to them what they are doing to us,” the activist says.

“Some analysts argue that when US could hold talks with Afghan Taliban despite their attacks and rejection of Afghan constitution, then talks with the militants should not be marred here by asking for their surrender and ceasefire. They forget the difference between the sitting here and there. Taliban there are fighting the US and its allies who have occupied Afghanistan and the TTP here is waging war against its own people, land and security forces. How could they be equated?”

According to a social activist, it is obvious no state or its people can allow or afford a parallel system or a militant force in its jurisdiction. They can’t be expected to embrace those who are hell bent on their annihilation.

“How can talks be held with them? Have they submitted to state’s writ, its constitution and accepted and repented their mistakes and injustices? Will they unconditionally surrender? Will they cease to indulge in terrorism?”

“The militants this week released another video wherein six Pakistani soldiers were beheaded. Then the TTP’s spokesman offered talks while Adnan Rashid, the master-mind of several high profile attacks who was freed from the Bannu Jail by TTP last year, sat beside him. He is a figurehead. His presence in the video makes a mockery of the talks offer and is meant to molest the establishment,” says another social activist.

“The security forces are fighting for the country and Pakistani politicians should visit the frontlines to express solidarity with them. Instead, they are adding insult to injury by urging unconditional talks with TTP,” he opines.

“Militants and some of their apologists say alliance with the US and drone attacks brought about terrorism in Pakistan. But if so, (one can say only for the sake of argument and if it is not taken as enticing them for attacks on the US) then why militants who attack Pakistani defence installations located hundreds of kilometres away from their hideouts and kill our soldiers and innocent civilians, don’t go and attack the US bases in Afghanistan located a few miles away from there?” he asks.

“So assertive are the militants that when the JUI APC avoids using the term terrorism and militancy, it is welcomed by the TTP as a ‘positive’ development. And when the ANP APC declares talks are the first priority (but not the only solution as declared often by others) and talks about other options, its APC is rejected and it is targeted,” opines another political worker.

“Taliban have threatened to target ANP, MQM and PPP during election campaign and asked people to avoid their meetings and warned other parties to consider their policies. By welcoming some parties as guarantors and declaring others as targets may end up giving open field to the former and restricting it for the latter.”

“In private discussions, most politicians reject talks but they are pro-talks in public so as to avoid being killed. During the APCs and elsewhere, they avoid condemning the Taliban. They urge talks but intentionally avoid discussing the other options (of state operation and retaliation) in case talks fail. They want peace and power but, it seems, political expediency is being preferred over demands of national security and sovereignty? Most are following a policy of appeasement. But never forget the first step in retreat is never the last one,” says a teacher.

Militants assert that they fight for Islam. What is terrorism to others is Jihad for them. They say the government should frame independent foreign policy, separate itself from Afghan war, cede operations in Pakistan, prepare Islamic constitution and repeal laws repugnant to Islam. So is urged by their mentors. “Who should decide on these things? Who should have authority to decide what is right and bad for the country, TTP or popularly elected parliament and rulers? Should anyone wage war on his state if one doesn’t agree with any of state policies? Should people have exclusive authority to elect their rulers or states can be taken over by force? Bullet or ballot, which should determine things? Should one believe in supremacy of constitution to be enforced and explained by the state judiciary or in abdication of state to the Taliban, that they decide and impose whatever they want to?” asks a technocrat.

“Nothing can be achieved with piecemeal half hearted endeavours devoid of any comprehensive anti-terrorism strategy clearly spelling out other post-talks-failure options,” he says.

“Militants don’t have the capacity to fight a sustained war against the state. The security forces have flushed militants out from most of their strongholds. They can no more hold on to an area for long. They only can indulge in hit and run campaign. But their guerrilla warfare can never bring about the change they cherish. It can only inflict material and human losses on the nation to satisfy only their sense of vengeance?” he adds.


……………….

ORIGINAL TEXT of THE ARTICLE.

The other view: Is Dialogue a capitulation to militants?

Tahir Ali

Two All Parties Conferences, first by Awami National Party (ANP) and second by Jamiat Ulemae Islam (F) have urged talks with the Tehreeki Taliban Pakistan (TTP) but is there any rationale for these talks?

Prolonged conversations with political workers and persons from different strata have revealed most are against the talks. But they wish to be anonymous while publicly opposing so as not to annoy the militants.

“It will help bring Peace, it is said. But have the earlier agreements with militants –Shakai (2004), Sararogha (2005), Miramshah (2006), Khyber (2008) and Swat (2008) brought about peace?,” asks a political activist.

“These agreements were explicitly pro-militants -the state halted operation, withdrew troops from demanded areas, announced amnesty for, and released, militants, paid them compensation etc. But all this didn’t pacify them; they didn’t stop their war against the state; instead, they got emboldened and more lethal and extended their campaign and sway to other areas,” he adds.

Some apologists, he says, accuse the state and its security forces of not honouring the earlier deals. They always support the narration of militants (anti-state elements) and blame the security forces (state institutions) for spread in terrorism and violation of these accords. “But didn’t militants agree to certain conditions but then violated them; they didn’t take advantage of opportunities given by the state; they used peace-talks as an interval for gaining more areas and strength; they continued to support foreign fighters on Pakistani territory; they killed over 35000 innocent civilians and 5000 of soldiers and desecrated even their bodies; they least cared for Pakistan’ international compulsions. Talks with them won’t be accepted by the heirs of martyrs. It will mean surrender, appeasement and our capitulation to them. These can be held only if they surrender and accept the state sovereignty; there is no other option than to do to them what they are doing to us,” the activist says.

“Some analysts argue that when US could hold talks with Afghan Taliban despite their attacks and rejection of Afghan constitution, then talks with the militants should not be marred here by asking for their surrender and ceasefire. They forget the difference between the sitting here and there. Taliban there are fighting with the US and its allies who have occupied Afghanistan and the TTP here is waging war against its own people, land and security forces. How could they be equated,” he argues.

According to a social activist, it is obvious no state or its people can allow or afford a parallel system or a militant force in its jurisdiction. They can’t be expected to embrace those who are hell bent on their annihilation.

“How can talks be held with them? Have they submitted to state’s writ, its constitution and accepted and repented their mistakes and injustices? Will they unconditionally surrender? Will they cease to indulge in terrorism?”

“The militants this week released another video wherein six Pakistani soldiers were beheaded. Then the TTP’s spokesman offered talks while Adnan Rashid, the master-mind of several high profile attacks who was freed from the Bannu Jail by TTP last year, sat beside him. He is a figurehead. His presence in the video makes a mockery of the talks offer and is meant to molest the establishment,” says another social activist.

“The security forces are fighting for the country and Pakistani politicians should visit the frontlines to express solidarity with them. Instead, they are adding insult to injury by urging unconditional talks with TTP,” he opines.

“Militants and some of their apologists say alliance with the US and drone attacks brought about terrorism in Pakistan. But if so, (one can say only for the sake of argument and if it is not taken as enticing them for attacks on the US) then why militants who can attack against Pakistani defence installations located hundreds of kilometres away from their hideouts and kill our soldiers and innocent civilians don’t go and attack the US bases in Afghanistan located a few miles away from there?,” he adds.

“So assertive are the militants that when the JUI APC avoids using the term terrorism and militancy, it is welcomed by the TTP as a ‘positive’ development. And when the ANP APC declares talks are the first priority (but not the only solution as declared often by others) and talks about other options, its APC is rejected and it is targeted,” opines another political worker.

According to him, Taliban have threatened to target ANP, MQM and PPP during election campaign and asked people to avoid their meetings and warned other parties to consider their policies. By welcoming some parties as guarantors and declaring others as targets may end up giving open field to the former and restricting it for the latter, he argues.

“In private discussions, most politicians reject talks but they are pro-talks in public so as to avoid being killed. During the APCs and elsewhere, they avoid condemning the Taliban. They urge talks but intentionally avoid discussing the other options (of state operation and retaliation) in case talks fail. They want peace and power but, it seems, political expediency is being preferred over demands of national security and sovereignty? Most are following a policy of appeasement. But never forget the first step in retreat is never the last one,” says a teacher.

“Militants assert that they fight for Islam. What is terrorism to others is Jihad for them. They say the government should frame independent foreign policy, separate itself from Afghan war, cede operations in Pakistan, prepare Islamic constitution and repeal laws repugnant to Islam. So is urged by their mentors. Who should decide on these things? Who should have authority to decide what is right and bad for the country, TTP or popularly elected parliament and rulers? Should anyone wage war on his state if one doesn’t agree with any of state policies? Should people have exclusive authority to elect their rulers or states can be taken over by force? Bullet or ballot, which should determine things? Should one believe in supremacy of constitution to be enforced and explained by the state judiciary or in abdication of state to the Taliban, that they decide and impose whatever they want to?,” asks a technocrat.

“Nothing can be achieved with piecemeal half hearted endeavours devoid of any comprehensive anti-terrorism strategy clearly spelling out other post-talks-failure options,” he says.

“Militants don’t have the capacity to fight a sustained war against the state. The security forces have flushed militants out from most of their strongholds. They can no more hold on to an area for long. They only can indulge in hit and run campaign. But their guerrilla warfare can never bring about the change they cherish. It can only inflict material and human losses on the nation to satisfy only their sense of vengeance?” he adds.

(These are the views of the persons. Writer’s total agreement with these is not necessary)

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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)

On Peace-talks with militants

Talking peace with militants

 

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/Jan2013-weekly/nos-27-01-2013/pol1.htm#7
What are the chances of a dialogue between the militants and the 
government? What does it hope to achieve and how soon? These re all 
relevant questions at a time when we are so close to general election
By Tahir Ali

With the federal and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governments as well as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) having agreed for negotiations — albeit with some conditions — there cannot be a better time to discuss the pros and cons of this process.

What, at all, are the chances of this dialogue? What are the respective demands/conditions of both sides? What are the obstacles and how could these conflicting differences be bridged in a way that is acceptable to both the parties? What are the minimum requirements that will have to be fulfilled and the confidence-building measures that need to be taken by both the government and the TTP to create a conducive atmosphere for dialogue? Who among the Taliban should the government talk to and who should comprise the official or intermediary peace-body for negotiations? Which are the other national, regional and global stakeholders that need to be taken on board during the process? What should be the agenda of talks? Who will be the guarantors of any accord that is reached? What, are the chances of its success in bringing about peace in the volatile region? And what should be the subsequent options if the talks fail for intransigence?

Questions such as these and others need to be focussed on and discussed at length for working out a viable agenda and a conducive atmosphere for talks towards sustainable peace in the region.

The ANP Chief, Asfandyar Wali Khan, and the KP government recently said they were sincere in holding talks with the militants and that negotiations would be held before elections. However, no dialogue process has begun as yet. One hopes the talks are held and are successful in bringing about the much needed peace in the region.

Bakht Raziq, a political activist, is optimistic about the prospects of dialogue. “No problem could ever be solved by the use of power alone. To bring the war to a responsible close and for a lasting peace in the region, a political settlement is absolutely essential.”

That the provincial government has only two months left to start/complete the lengthy peace process and that the militants and the government have sharp differences of opinion has led some experts to be sceptical of the process.

Brigadier (Retd) Mehmood Shah, a security and tribal affairs’ expert, thinks the process is a non-starter and only a time-buying tactic on the part of the government. “Despite offers of talks from both sides, there is still no plan as to when, with whom and how the dialogue would be held.”

Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, ex-Interior Minister and Chief of the Qaumi Watan Party, also thinks talks are hardly possible as the government has only four weeks to go. “The ANP government has been in for five years but failed to curb militancy and bring peace. Still the dialogue must be given a fair chance. With elections due shortly, the Taliban would also like to wait till the next government is installed. They had stalled attacks against the incumbent ANP-led government for four months when it came to power five years ago.”

There are other factors that show dialogue is still possible, even if a bit later. The US is holding negotiations with the Afghan Taliban. The Pakistani military establishment has changed the focus of its security doctrine from external to internal threats. Pakistan has released, and is releasing, the Afghan Taliban prisoners. It is reluctant to launch a military operation in North Waziristan (NWA) despite demands from the US.

The successors of Maulvi Nazir in NWA have vowed to continue the truce with the Pakistan Army while the TTP too has pledged to abide by it. The incumbent regime is almost at the end of its term and with general elections at hand, the militants may halt their attacks and prefer to adopt await-and-see policy till a new government is installed after elections.

Mehmood Shah opines that as dialogue with terrorists is not acceptable to the world, “the government will certainly ask the militants to accept Pakistan’s constitution, shun militancy, lay down arms and stop interference in Afghanistan before coming to the negotiating table.” They, on the other hand, would urge the release of their mates, withdrawal of army from the tribal belt, enforcement of Shariah and end to alliance with the US, says Shah.

Sherpao says though parties differ in their priorities, these can be bridged or else the differences be kept aside for the time being. “The Taliban would obviously demand the enforcement of Sharia, end of support to America, release of their prisoners, cessation of war policy in Pakistan, payment of compensation etc. They would also ask for guarantors to supervise the implementation of an accord. But these problems can be discussed and sorted out later.” The first question would be how to bring the contending parties to the negotiation table, says Sherpao.

He thinks these differences should not be made an excuse to stop or derail the negotiation process. “After all talks between the US, the Afghan government and insurgents, including the Taliban, are held despite the fact that Taliban don’t accept the Afghan constitution/government, have killed many Afghan leaders and closed girl schools.”

Some experts are of the view that Pakistani Taliban are an extension of the Afghan Taliban. So talks with the Pakistani Taliban cannot be held in isolation. The two and other regional and global elements must be taken on board.

Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai and Pakistani and American establishments still suspect each other. Each of them has its own list of enemies and friends. The friend of one is often the enemy for the other. Bridging this conflict of interest is essential. Whether the US would discontinue its drone programme inside Pakistan is still uncertain. An attack could spoil the entire peace process in no time.

All stakeholders — Pakistan, Iran, US, Afghan government and Taliban along with other groups there, TTP, political parties — of the conflict will have to be taken on board during the peace process.

The next government in Pakistan will have to own the process that begins today. For this, a national consensus between the stakeholders — political/religious parties, the security establishment, civil society — about the enemy, the ailment and the solution is needed.

“The government will have to form a peace council/ reconciliatory commission that should be acceptable to all stakeholders. This reconciliatory body would be given ‘Waak’ (authority of representing and deciding on behalf of a party in a conflict) by the sides. It will first conduct negotiations and then supervise the implementation of the agreed decisions,” says Sherpao.

To bridge the huge gap between the opposing views of the Taliban and the government, a mediator would be required. But an arbiter usually starts work on mutual request or at least upon the consent of the parties involved in a dispute. Again, an arbiter should be a neutral person or a body of people respected by all the parties concerned. He must be given authority or ‘Waak’ in Pushto. Has any Waak been given to a third party or arbitrator?

“The militants are practically divided into several groups that are separate and independent from the TTP. For example, Maulana Fazlullah-led Swat Taliban and Maulvi Faqir-led Bajaur factions are not under the operational control of TTP. Then there are sharp differences on dealing with al Qaeda, Tajik, Uzbek and other foreign militants,” states Shah.

caption

What if talks fail?

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Original text of the article

Chances of a dialogue between militants and government

By Tahir Ali

With the federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments as well as the Tehrik-e-Taliban PakistAAAan (TTP) having agreed for negotiations –albeit with some conditions-, there cannot be a better time to discuss the pros and cons of this process.

What are, at all, the chances of a dialogue? What are the respective demands/conditions of both the sides? What are the obstacles? How could/should these conflicting differences be bridged in a way that is acceptable to both the parties? What are the minimum requirements that will have to be fulfilled and the confidence building measures that need to be taken by both the government and the TTP to create conducive atmosphere for the dialogue? Who should be talked to and how? Who should comprise the official or intermediary peace-body for negotiations? Which are the other national, regional and global stake-holders that need to be taken on board during the process? What should be the agenda of talks? Who will be the guarantors of any accord that is reached at? What, if held, are the chances of its success to bring about peace in the volatile region? And what should be the subsequent options to curb militancy if the talks fail for intransigence?  

Questions such as these and others need to be focussed and discussed at length for working out a viable agenda and a conducive atmosphere for talks towards a sustainable peace in the region.

The ANP Chief Asfandyar Wali Khan and KP government recently said they were sincere in holding talks with the militants and that negotiations would be held before elections.

However, no dialogue process has begun as yet. One sincerely hopes that the talks would be held and would be successful in bringing about the much needed peace in the country and region.

 Bakht Raziq, a political activist, said there are lots of chances that dialogue will be held.  “No problem could ever be solved by use of power alone. To bring the war to a responsible close and for a lasting peace in the region a political settlement is absolutely essential.”

That the provincial government has only two months left with it to start/complete the lengthy peace process and that militants and government have sharp differences of opinion on the way forward has led some experts to be sceptical of the process.

Brigadier (R) Mehmood Shah, a security and tribal affairs’ expert, thinks that the process is a non-starter and only a time buying tactics on part of the government. “Despite offers of talks from both sides, there is still no plan as to when, with whom and how dialogue would be held.”

Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, Ex Interior Minister and Chief of the Qaumi Watan Party, too thinks talks are hardly possible as the government has only 4 weeks to go. “The ANP government has been in for five years but failed to curb militancy and bring peace. But dialogue must be given a fair chance. With elections due shortly, Taliban would also like to wait till the next government is installed. They had also stalled attacks against the incumbent ANP-led government for four months when it came to power five years ago.”

But there are some factors that show dialogue is possible, even if a bit later. The US is holding negotiations with the Afghan Taliban. Pakistani military establishment has changed the focus of its security doctrine from external to internal threats. Pakistan has released and is releasing Afghan Taliban prisoners. It is reluctant to launch military operation in NWA despite demands from the US.  The successors of Maulvi Nazir in NWA have vowed to continue the truce with the Pakistan Army while the TTP too had pledged to abide by it. The incumbent regime is almost at the end of its term and with general elections at hand, the militants may halt their attacks and prefer to adopt wait and see till a new government is installed after elections.

Priorities of the parties

Mehmood Shah opines that as dialogue with terrorists is not acceptable to the world, “the government will certainly ask the militants to accept Pakistan’s constitution, shun militancy, lay down arms and stop interference in Afghanistan before coming to the negotiating table. But they would urge release of their mates, withdrawal of army from the tribal belt, enforcement of Shariah and end to alliance with the US,” he adds. 

Aftab Sherpao says though parties differ on their priorities’ list, these can be bridged or else differences be kept aside for the time being.

“The Taliban would obviously demand enforcement of Sharia, end to support to America, release of their prisoners, cessation of war policy in Pakistan, payment of compensation etc. They would also ask for guarantors to supervise the implementation of an accord. But these problems can be discussed and sorted out later. The first question is how to bring the contending parties to the negotiation table,” he said.

 “These differences should not be made an excuse to stop or derail the negotiation process. After all talks between US, Afghan government and insurgents including the Taliban are held despite the fact that Taliban don’t accept the Afghan constitution/government, have killed many Afghan leaders and closed girl schools. Obviously when the militants accept the writ of the state and its constitution, the problem would be over. Why would they fight the government then?”

Obstacles and hitches 

Experts say Pakistani Taliban are an extension of Afghan Taliban. So talks with the Pakistani Taliban cannot be held in isolation.  The two and other regional and global elements must be taken on board.

Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai and Pakistani and American establishment still doubt suspect each other. Each of them has its own list of enemies and friends. The friend of one is often the enemy for the other. Bridging this conflict of interest is a must.

If US would discontinue its drone programme inside Pakistan is still uncertain. An attack could spoil the entire peace process in no time.

All stake-holders –Pakistan, Iran, US, Afghan government and Taliban along with other groups there, TTP, political parties – of the conflict will have to be taken on board during peace process.

The next government in Pakistan will have to own the process tomorrow that begins today. For this national consensus between the stakeholders -political/religious parties, the security establishment, civil society – as to who is enemy, what is the ailment and what is the solution is needed which is far from there. Confusion on the friends and enemies will have to be removed.

“The government will have to form a peace council/ reconciliatory commission that should be acceptable to the stake holders. This reconciliatory body would be given Wak (authority of representing and deciding on behalf of a party in a conflict) by the sides. It will first conduct negotiations and then supervise the implementation of the agreed decisions,” says Sherpao.

To bridge the huge gap between the opposing views of Taliban and government, a mediator or arbiter between the two is needed. But an arbiter usually starts work on the mutual request or at least upon the consent of the parties involved in a dispute. Again, an arbiter should be a neutral person or body of people respected by all parties. He must be given authority or “Waak” in Pushto. Has any Waak been given to a third party or arbitrator?

 “The militants are practically divided into several groups that are separate and independent from the TTP. For example Maulana Fazlullah-led Swat Taliban and Maulvi Faqir-led Bajaur factions are not under the operational control of TTP. Then there are sharp differences on dealing with Alqaeda, Tajik, Uzbak and other foreign militants,” states Shah.

With no office for TTP still allowed or established, how and where talks would be held.

Militants will be extremely reluctant to stop cross-border attacks.

Housing subsidy for militancy-hit people

home
Out in the open, still
Housing subsidy programme for people in the militancy-hit areas in Bajaur and Mohmand agencies needs to be pursued
By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/apr2012-weekly/nos-22-04-2012/pol1.htm#4

While the housing uniform assistance subsidy project (HUASP) for the militancy-hit people in Malakand division is nearing completion, it is still a long way to go in Bajaur and Mohmand agencies, particularly in the latter where not a single penny has been given in housing subsidy despite the lapse of around three years since the millions of internally displaced persons returned to their homes.

According to an HUSAP official, who does not want to be identified, as of March this year, 4919 of the completely damaged and 9500 of the partly damaged house owners have been disbursed Rs3.5bn — Rs0.4 million for the totally damaged and Rs0.16mn for the partially damaged ones — in the five districts of Malakand division — Swat, Buner, Shangla and Dir upper and lower and the federally administered tribal Bajaur and Mohmand agencies.

While only around 400 owners of the fully destroyed and 1000 partially damaged houses remain to be paid in Malakand division, over 4200 of these categories are yet to be paid in the two agencies.

In Bajaur, Rs1.44bn have been paid to 5389 owners of the 2437 and 2952 in the two categories respectively with over 3100 yet to be paid there.

But none of all the 1092 owners of totally damaged and 2 owners of partly damaged houses from Mohmand agency have been compensated as yet apparently for its distant location and security concerns. “The verification and registration process is under process there, through slowly as some areas are yet to be cleared of militants. But these people will also be released their compensation amount as soon as the verification process completes,” the official tells The News on Sunday.

The programme is being undertaken by the provincial reconstruction, rehabilitation and settlement authority (PaRRSA) with financial support from the United Agency for International Development (USAID).

It was originally to be financed by the World Bank but it wanted to pay money in instalments rather than in one go and had conditioned the release of the subsequent tranches to verification whether the earlier amount had been utilised for the purpose or not. WB had opted out of financing the project after authorities went for an owner-driven reconstruction and payment to the affected people uniformly in one go without establishment of an “assistance and inspection” regime. Later, the USAID agreed to the work-plan of the PaRRSA and became its financier.

Rationalising the amount, another official of PaRRSA tells TNS that according to the census of 1998, the average size of a house is 575 sq ft in Malakand region, in which each unit includes two rooms, a bathroom and a kitchen. “Per square construction rate in the region is around Rs700 per sq ft and the estimated cost of Rs0.4mn and Rs0.16mn for reconstruction of the completely and partially damaged houses respectively has been derived by multiplying 700 with 575, which is the amount of compensation being made. The reconstruction cost included the brick, stone and block masonry and the rate is also adjusted for better standards and disaster resilience features,” he adds.

To a question about delay in disbursement of money, he says, “The compensation has been delayed as they are either to be verified, have no bank accounts of their own, or their forms are misplaced or they are out of the country when physical verification was being made or the house that has been damaged is jointly owned or they have mistakes in their names/addresses or have double entries due to which their payment is blocked.”

With an overall outlay of Rs6.58bn for total compensation, the damage and needs assessment (DNA) survey conducted by World Bank and Asian Development Bank for the government of Pakistan in 2009, had estimated that 11755 housing units were completely and 11738 partly damaged in the area. But later, the figure was slashed to 7024 for completely damaged and increased to 13039 partly in the two areas for reasons officials could not explain.

As per the DNA, the grants had to be released in tranches based on stages of construction with technical assistance. The proposed mechanism was to be a cash grant-based, owner-driven model but with close monitoring of reconstruction process. The mechanism was changed later to cash payment in one go but change in mechanism was against the experience and decreased the chances that the money would be utilised for its head.

For example, in the reconstruction strategy after Kashmir earthquake 2005, Rs0.175mn was provided to each affected family in instalments along with house designs and technical assistance. At the end of 2009, 95 percent of the destroyed houses were rebuilt with 97 percent of these according to the standards and hence safer.

But in the case of the 2008 Balochistan earthquake, the affected people were given one-time cash grant of Rs 350,000 and Rs50,000 for completely and partially damaged houses respectively but without any technical assistance or required reconstruction standard. The quality of reconstruction, according to UN-HABITAT engineers, was very poor.

There are rumours the money hasn’t been utilised for the purpose. The PaRRSA official says it is not true, “People adjust their incomes and expenses prioritising their needs. Most have built their homes before the compensation began on borrowed money. Now they can utilise the cash to return their debts they had taken for the purpose or divert the money to fulfil their other needs,” he adds.

The official says the damaged houses included luxurious bungalows as well as mud houses and their reconstruction cost was different. “But with our mechanism, the poor benefitted more. The government has only provided the well-off with token money in return for their sacrifices as it had no resources to provide Rs10 million to a rich person for building his destroyed luxurious house,” he says.

People from Swat also allege nepotism, political interference and corruption in the nomination of affectees and payment of compensation money. Tariq Khan from Miandam says the process became defective when the civil administration and the patwari culture got involved.

Militant control and subsequent military campaigns displaced and destroyed shelters and livelihood of hundreds of thousands in other federally and provincially administered tribal areas — Kurram, Orakzai, Khyber, South and North Waziristan and other areas but apart from relief support, no worthwhile rehabilitation support has been given to the affected so far.

 

Swat: The way forward

Batkhela Bazaar (Off Day)

Image via Wikipedia

Swat: what’s the way forward?

The area needs a lot more attention now than what it needed before

By Tahir Ali

http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/jul2011-weekly/nos-24-07-2011/pol1.htm#3

During my visit to Swat last month, I talked to many people in Batkhela, Chakdara, Mingora, Madyan, Bahrain and Miandam. Not only in Swat but elsewhere too, lack of scientific approach, jumping to conclusions created by widely-held conspiracy theories and an acute absence of dialogue between the public and the establishment are not only hampering development of mutual trust but harming efforts to develop national consensus on anti-terrorism strategy.

There is military presence but other than several check-posts where military or police personnel register and identity destination of tourists, there is nothing uncommon. Hoteliers are required to register particulars of the guests and military vehicles patrol the roads casually. I think that presence of security is natural as Swat has been under tumultuous conditions for years. There is simply no room for complacency and negligence here.

Many people in Swat acknowledge that extremists’ ability to occupy an area has been crushed but say they could stage a comeback anytime as their leadership has not been arrested or killed and those arrested have not been accounted so far. The fear is so pervasive that no one is ready to come on record against either of the parties.

Conflict of opinion is bound to occur in a problem where human beings with different backgrounds and analytical capability are involved. Conformity by all to official or militant account is impossible and the objective should be unity in diversity in an environment that allows freedom of thought and dissent encourages dialogue and avoids equating those with genuine reservations on the role and strategy of establishment with the anti-state elements.

If there are loopholes in the official account, the account of war on terror of the men in the street in Swat is no different from the rest of Pakistan where conflicting, often ridiculous, conspiracy theories are embraced as facts and opinions are formed on their basis.

As elsewhere, there is considerable confusion on the causes of the problem. To some Swatis, Taliban and terrorism are the products of Pakistan’s pro-American foreign policy but they also blame Mossad, RAW, CIA or Black Water for these acts. Again, many believe Taliban wanted to create state within the state, had the blessings of foreign agencies and the state did the right thing to crush them.

But some also accuse the civil and military establishment of being too lenient initially and narrate how the army and police stood silent when the Taliban killed the people. Yet, others exonerate them and think it was the negligence, inaction or purposeful silence of the MMA-led provincial government that provided the space and opportunity to the militants to expand their area of influence.

Many others admit they had committed the mistake of siding with the insurgents — near revolt-like situation in 1994 led by Sufi Muhammad, and the 2007-9 uprising led by Fazlullah.

Some Swat people are unhappy over the establishment’s double standards on counter-terrorism strategy. “In Pakhtun areas challengers of state’s writ are crushed while those in Punjab, which is more significant for Pakistan’s stability than the former, are tolerated and their extremist ideology is allowed to flourish,” says a man in his 40s, not wanting to be identified.

A few point out how the militants managed to collect huge quantities of sophisticated weapons and established training centres. Many think it strange that with so much patrolling and many security checkposts around, militants are still able to attack. “Where did the terrorists come from and go? There were hundreds of militants according to official estimates, tell us how many have been killed or captured,” says a resident from Chakdara.

Many others are thankful to the army and say army presence has saved many lives and properties from falling prey to mutual enmities created by suspicions of spying in the area. First, the Taliban killed many for being pro-establishment and then security agencies hunted the ‘anti-state’ actors and their abettors. The victims and their families in both cases thought someone in the neighbourhood to have spied on them. This created many local enmities.

Some people in the area think terrorists are being used as puppets by ‘agencies’ to take dollars and justify the huge/permanent military presence in the area. What struck me the most was that this mindset was even held by apparently educated people.

The state and its security apparatus needs to open up and allow dissent in its interactions with the people. Special teams of teachers and psychologists accompanied by men from civil and military agencies should visit seminaries and schools in the area and allow open questioning of their narrative. This way they would be able to apprise themselves of the real mindset of the people.

There should be no doubt that most of the insurgents have used lack of speedy justice to attract people to their agenda. Most of the Taliban cadres comprised young minds who are susceptible to violent agenda. They should be taught that reformation of societies through violent and militant ways results in more loss and acute anarchy in their midst. De-radicalisation programme for militant youngsters and their families is good but it needs to be replicated in Punjab.

The solution to the problems lies in our patient and judicious approach to problems, an equitable distribution of wealth in society, poverty alleviation and job opportunities.

The state should try to build a consensus against militancy in the country. The concept of ‘bad’ or ‘good’ militants needs to be given up. The political class should offer dialogue and amnesty to militants if they are ready to lay down arms and submit to the writ of the state.

The writer is a freelance journalist who blogs at:

https://tahirkatlang.wordpress.com

Following is the text of the article in original ( as I had sent it to the paper)

Analysis of the situation in Swat

Time for public-military open dialogue

By Tahir Ali

Asim Sajjad Akhtar in these pages last week analysed the situation in Swat. During my visit to Swat last month, I talked to numerous persons in Batkhela, Chakdara, Mingora, Madyan, Bahrain and Miandam. In the light of what I saw and ascertained, some of his observations on the effects of the catastrophe, the profound suspicions, unanswered questions and fear amongst the people, on the lack of any meaningful critique in Pakistan on the war on terror and that before taking any position on ‘war on terror’ one should visit Swat and see the long-term consequences of war on ordinary Swatis could be endorsed, but one cannot completely agree with his assertions that army loathes everyone else there, including the police, and that there are irreconcilable holes in the official account of the war on terror.

Not only in Swat but at the national scene too, lack of scientific attitude, our national malady of jumping to conclusions, suspicions created by widely-held conspiracy theories, and an acute absence of open dialogue and of liaison between the public and establishment are not only hampering development of much needed mutual trust but harming efforts to develop national consensus on anti-terrorism strategy.

There is military presence but not that much as is suggested. Other than the several check-posts where military or police personnel register the identity and destination of tourists, there is nothing uncommon. Hoteliers are required to register the particulars of the guests and military vehicles patrol the roads casually. I think that much care and security is natural as Swat has been under tumultuous conditions for years. There is simply no room for complacency and negligence here.

Their attitude with the public at large is not that bad either, provided you obey the rules or cooperate.

Many Swatis acknowledge that extremists’ ability to occupy an area has been crushed, but say they could stage a comeback anytime as their leadership has not been arrested nor killed and those arrested have not been accounted so far. The fear is so pervasive that no one is ready to come on record against neither of the parties.

Conflict of opinion is bound to occur in a problem where human beings with different backgrounds and analytical capability are involved. Conformity by all to official or militant account is impossible and the objective should be unity in diversity in an environment that allows freedom of thought and dissent, encourages dialogue and avoids equating those with genuine reservations on the role and strategy of establishment with the anti-state elements.

To me, just as patriotism is not confined to conforming to official version alone, liberalism and objectivity also cannot be equalised with attacking the state policies at any cost. Unfortunately it has been.

If there are loopholes in official account, the account of war on terror of the men in the street in Swat is no different from the rest of Pakistan where conflicting, often ridiculous, conspiracy theories are embraced as facts and opinions are formed on their basis.

As elsewhere, there is considerable confusion on the causes of the problem. To some Swatis, Taliban and terrorism are the products of Pakistan’s pro-American foreign policy but they also blame Mossad, RAW, CIA or Black Water for these acts. Again many believe Taliban wanted to create state within the state, had the blessings of foreign agencies and the state did the right thing to crush them. But some also accuse the civil and military establishment of being too lenient initially and narrate how the army and police stood silent when in their eyesight, the Taliban butchered the people. Yet others exonerate them and think it were the negligence, inaction or purposeful silence of the MMA-led provincial government that provided the space and opportunity to the militants to expand their area of influence and increase their power and resources. Yet many others admit they had committed the mistakes of siding with the insurgents quite a few times- 1890s insurgency of Mad-mulla against the British, near revolt-like situation in 1989 and 94 led by Sufi Muhammad and the 2007-9 uprising led by Fazlullah, for example.

Some Swatis are unhappy over the establishment’s double standards on the counter-terrorism strategy. “In Pakhtun areas –like Swat and tribal areas– challengers of state’s writ are crushed while those in Punjab, which is more significant for Pakistan’s stability than the former, are tolerated and their extremist ideology is allowed to flourish,” a man in his 40s said.

A few point out how the militants managed to collect huge quantities of sophisticated weapons and established training centres and think it strange that with so much patrolling and many security checkposts around the militants are still able to come and attack. “Where did the terrorists come from and go? There were hundreds of militants according to official estimates but please tell us how many have been killed or captured,” said a chakdara resident.

They need to be reminded that army and police need authorisation for attack which was not there until the incumbent ANP-led government gave it a go-ahead. They need to be reminded that despite success of the operation, militants would continue their intermittent strikes for years to come. After all, you cannot man all entrances and stop those all the time who want to attack.

Many are thankful to the army and say the army presence has saved many lives and properties from falling prey to mutual enmities created by suspicions of spying in the area. “First the Taliban killed many for being pro-establishment and then the security agencies hunted the ‘anti-state’ actors and their abettors. The victims and their families in both cases thought someone in the neighbourhood to have spied on them. This created many local enmities. Enmities in Pakhtoon societies go on for generations. Time is the best healer but I think it may take around 25-30 years to heal the wounds created by mutual suspicions or actual wrongs,” according to a teacher.

There were some hardliners who at first said there were no militants and when confronted, opined they were the agents of the establishment and those killed are no more than official sacrifices for a ‘greater national cause’ They thought terrorists are being used as puppets by ‘agencies’ to take dollars and justify the huge/permanent military presence in the area.  What struck me the most was that this profound suspicious mindset was even held by apparently educated fellows. They also need to be addressed. But the mainstream reconcilable population badly needs special sessions with open questioning to erase their suspicions before it is taken in by the propaganda in the streets and family functions.

The state and its security operatus needs to open up and encourage dissent with its stance in its interactions with the people. Special teams of teachers and psychologists accompanied by men from civil and military agencies should visit seminaries and schools in the area and allow open questioning of their narrative. This way they would be able to apprise themselves of the real mindset of the people rather than the taken-for-granted-consensus against militants.

There should be no doubt that most of the insurgents have used the lack of speedy, easily and locally available justice to attract people to their agenda.

 

Most of the Taliban cadres comprised young minds who are susceptible to any violent agenda for their nascent minds and needs to be separated and saved from the groups that arouse their emotions and keep them from pursuing education. They should be taught that reformation of societies through violent and militant ways results in more loss, less advantage and acute anarchy in their midst.

 

The de-radicalisation programme for militant youngsters and their families is good but it needs to be replicated in Punjab.

 

In Swat recently, Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani rightly insisted on the need to fight the “political, psychological or religious” trends which lead to radicalism. Solution to the problems lies in our non-reactionary, patient and judicious approach to world problems, an equitable distribution of wealth in society, poverty alleviation and job opportunities, a robust and big middle class, rule of law, interfaith harmony and saying goodbye to emotionalism and puritanical approach and non-interference in the affairs of other states.

The state should try to build an anti-private jihad consensus in the country. The concept of ‘bad’ or ‘good’ militants needs to be given up. The political class should offer dialogue and amnesty to militants if they are ready to lay down arms and submit to the writ of the state. Religious-political parties and scholars must discourage militancy.

The writer is a freelance columnist who blogs at:

https://tahirkatlang.wordpress.com

Strategy for revival of tourism in Swat

PTDC Motel at Swat, NWFP, Pakistan. Image by M...

Image via Wikipedia

Formulating a viable strategy to revive tourism
The middle class will have to participate in tourism promotion campaigns, but the slump in businesses and decline in incomes coupled with security fears have been responsible for the people to not visit tourist resorts of late

By Tahir Ali Khan

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/apr2011-weekly/busrev-25-04-2011/p7.htm

With summer at hand and peace established in Swat, the provincial and federal governments, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC), Sarhad Tourism Corporation, local hotel/tourism industry and private tour operators should make joint concerted efforts to revive tourism in the region. To regain its erstwhile glory, tourism however needs some drastic measures and initiatives on part of all the stakeholders.

In collaboration with the private sector, the government should immediately conduct a need assessment survey to ascertain the different steps and facilities needed for attracting tourists in potential areas. But, obviously, the government cannot do all the things on its own. Therefore, public-private ventures are also the call of the hour to boost the tourism industry.

Revival of tourism is a prerequisite for eliminating extremism in the country as millions of people are jobless and thus indulge in such activities. A large chunk of the population is directly or indirectly dependent upon the sector. It, unfortunately, has suffered from the indifference of government and lack of sufficient involvement by the private sector.

The Ski Gala event which took place this winter and last year’s peace festival organised by the Provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority (PaRRSA) in Swat had attracted many tourists to the picturesque valley and rekindled hopes for reviving the tourism sector. But it requires a strong commitment and increased funding on part of the government to build the tourism infrastructure and public and private sectors’ coordination to achieve the milestone.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa should hold such festivals each year and arrange other amusing programmes in Swat. And the festivals should be given sufficient coverage in print and electronic media to attract tourists from both in and out of the country.

The middle class will have to participate in these campaigns, but the slump in businesses and decline in incomes coupled with security fears have been responsible for the people’s decreased desire to visit tourist resorts of late. This necessitates introducing certain incentives for tourists belonging to the middle and lower-middle classes.

Pakistanis are great lovers of cricket. There is a beautiful ground near Kalam where a small-scale national cricket tournament can be organised. Hotels are there in plenty. The appetising local fruit and vegetable as well as the famous mouth-watering Swat trout-fish would add to their pleasure. This would also send positive signals to the world about the people in Swat and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The government should repair and widen the roads damaged by floods in the area, construct new roads, construct walking treks at various locations and hotels. An international wildlife park at the world’s biggest plain Deodar forest at Kalam should be established.

Gabinajabba near Kabal, which is covered by snow even in peak summer, still has no road to go there. Hotel and the chairlift facilities in Malam Jabba Ski resort and other potential areas would have to be ensured. The government can develop a ski resort at Bishay Kalam where there is a natural miles long track. It should arrange a chairlift facility to go there from bazaar.

Communication facilities should be improved. Early restoration of Swat airport and helicopter facility to travel to/from Swat and between different areas of Swat will be welcome. Special transport facilities with discount in transport fares to the area could also be arranged by making a special request to the private transport companies.

There are 14 beautiful lakes in the valley such as Kondol Lake in Uthror Kalam. Several of them are unfortunately unknown and unattractive for tourists due to lack of roads and hotels.

The government should not only rejuvenate the PTDC motels and announce relief for tourists in its transport, lodging and cuisine services but also ask the private hotel industry to support the initiative with subsidised services to visitors. But is the latter in a position to do so in the wake of huge losses caused by floods and militancy?

“Apart from conducting several programmes for promotion of tourism like the peace tourism festival last year and Swat Peace Ski gala this year, we have also provided both in-kind and in-cash grants to 265 hotels amounting to millions of dollars with the help of USAID the FIRMS Project in Malakand to make them competitive and profitable,” Shakil Qadir Khan, the Director General of PaRRSA informed.

But more such steps need to be taken which will enable the badly-affected local hoteliers to provide better and cheaper services.

In a special package, the government, with the help of international donors and community, should immediately offer incentives to hotels, motels, restaurants and allied businesses. Besides, tourists’ information centres at several places must be established. Publication of literature in foreign languages, simple visa facilities like desks/counters for foreign tourists at airports will also greatly help revive tourism.

Swat has over 400 Buddhist sites. The government can prepare a special package/programme for the people of Japan, Thailand, and Sri Lanka to visit these places.

Swat, known as the Switzerland of Pakistan, is an ideal place for summer and winter tourism, adventure tourism, eco-tourism, culture/heritage tourism, spiritual tourism, sports tourism and commercial tourism. Lots of TV dramas are being shot in foreign countries. Why cannot these be filmed in local areas which can go a long way to make the world familiar with the beautiful landscape of the area?

The government and private tour operators would do well to establish links between communities and enabling institutions, such as banks, line departments, foreign embassies and donor agencies to revive tourism in the region.

Malik said there would be no restrictions on the tourists to visit any place in Swat. Security situation has indeed improved in the area but the tourists’ apprehensions regarding fool-proof security need to be removed and more facilities should be provided to them. To restore tourists’ confidence, the government should arrange army-supported tours to Swat. The ministries of foreign affairs, interior and Pakistani embassies abroad should jointly work for promotion of tourism with regional and friendly countries.

The sector that fetched billions to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from Swat alone has ceased to be a source of income anymore. It is estimated that Swat’s hotel industry has suffered losses of billions of rupees so far. The shrinkage of tourists has had an adverse impact on various tourism-dependent sectors like hotel, transport, cuisine, horticulture and handicrafts in the area rendering millions jobless.

Taliban-US talks

Is US-Taliban dialogue likely?

Tahir Ali

Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants to win over the moderate Taliban insurgents and leaders by offering them money, jobs, protection, and amnesty. But the million dollar question is: will his plan succeed. I think it won’t for various reasons. The strategy was used in Iraq with significant results. However it is either unlikely to happen at all or may not succeed in the war-torn Afghanistan though it probably will generate considerable debate in the media. The coalition obviously aims to divide and weaken the Taliban-led struggle. British foreign secretary David Miliband has also publicly stated that the aim of the Western countries was to divide the Taliban and overcome their resistance.

The coalition only wishes a respite in attacks against the coalition forces there and wants peace but on the basis of its own terms and desires. Will the Taliban or Hikmatyar, rather Afghans, agree to it? They, as we all know, have their preconditions to enter into a meaningful dialogue. Both Taliban and Hikmatyar –the two biggest forces that matter there –have made their support to a negotiated settlement of the Afghan imbroglio conditional with the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. And you know there is no such thing on the agenda. Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujiahid said Taliban could not be bought by money and bounties. The only political solution is that the foreign forces and the Afghan government surrender to them, he said. Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, former Afghan premier and chief of the Hezb-e-Islami, the biggest party after Taliban in Afghanistan, said that talks could be held but after withdrawal of foreign troops or assurances thereof. Karzai and other Afghan leaders have demanded that the Taliban forswear militancy before talks start. For their part, the Taliban have demanded that the Americans and other foreign forces leave the country first. Both are poles apart, how could negotiations succeed in this situation.

The plan is based on the premise that Taliban fighters are given higher salaries than the Afghanistan can afford to pay its forces. This is unproven and what is proven is that most of them live in miserable conditions. If considered in this backdrop, the whole premise of buying off the Taliban is unsound and doomed to fail. The size of the Nato-led force in Afghanistan will rise to 150,000 by year-end. But the surge alone will not ensure victory for them there. A political strategy will be needed but for that the huge gap between the opposing views of Taliban and US will have to be reconciled. It necessitates a mediator or arbiter between the two. But an arbiter usually starts work on the mutual request or consent of the parties concerned. Again, an arbiter should be a neutral and respected person or body of people and has to be given authority. This is called “Waak” in Pushto. Has any Waak been given to a third party or arbitrator? Karzai also hopes Saudi Arabia and Pakistan will play a role and support his peace and reconciliation endeavours. But it may not happen as well for some reasons. Saudi Arabia has been asked for help for its respect in Muslims. But its foreign minister Saud al-Faisal says his country will take part in Afghan peace efforts only if the Taliban denies sanctuary to al Qaeda and cuts ties with it. Will Taliban promise for that? The United States, Britain, Canada, Germany and Japan have voiced support for the plan and a negotiated peace with the Taliban. But the offer of dialogue has been restricted to the Taliban who would be ready to shun militancy. This selective application won’t work. General amnesty won’t be given so it is unlikely that militants will lay down arms and come home.

The presence of Alqaeda and American occupation of Afghanistan are the principal causes of the problem. With both showing no signs of imminent withdrawal, any hope for peace there tantamount to running after illusions. As long as Alqaeda is there, American occupation won’t leave and until its occupation continues, resistance to it will invariably go on. But the plan doesn’t address this core issue altogether. Any hope for peace and the success of this mechanism may only be just a wishful thinking. America and NATO countries always seek to divert attention from their occupation to the resultant resistance and “terrorism”. According to Richard Holbrook, the overwhelming majority of these people are not ideological supporters of Mullah Omar and al-Qaida. But that majority of fighters are not ideological fighters doesn’t mean that they are supporters of Hamid Karzai and the US occupation forces. History bears proof that Afghans have always detested foreign occupation forces. Though Karzai believes Pakistan can bring the Taliban to the negotiation table but there are indications that Pakistan’s influence and credibility in the Afghan Taliban have been on the decline ever since it joined the US war on terror. They didn’t accept its request to hand over Osama to the US; they rejected its persuasion to avoid the Bamiyan debacle; they didn’t deliver wanted Pakistanis hiding there and the like.

It is for this reason that I am strongly opposed to the claims on part of our successive governments that had Pakistan not come to the rescue of the US-led coalition in the war, it would lost the war. When our leaders boastfully say that Pakistan’s support is vital for them, they, by default, mean that it can still ensure peace in Afghanistan which I fear it’s not.

The US and Taliban would have to show restraint and avoid dangerous actions that can make negotiations impossible or halt the process if it started at all.

The latest action, operation Mushtarak in Hilmand province of Afghanistan, may further alienate the insurgents who are for dialogue with the occupation forces or Afghan government. Are they ready to do that?

(Pakistan Observer)

Talks with AfghanTaliban

Time to talk to Taliban
TAHIR ALI

Business Recorder (February 06 2010)
The new initiative by Afghan president Hamid Karzai to woo moderate Taliban insurgents and leaders, who are ready to shun militancy and are not part of al Qaeda, into the political process in return for money, jobs, protection, and amnesty may not succeed for various reasons. Karzai said that those who joined the Taliban were also children of Afghanistan.

However, US General Stanley McChrystal recently suggested that hard-line Taliban, who are part of al Qaeda or other terror groups, would not be accepted in the scheme and they would obviously be killed or captured. The US, Britain, Canada, Germany and Japan have voiced support for the plan and a negotiated peace with the Taliban.

Karzai also hopes Saudi King Abdullah will play a role in Afghanistan peace process. He asked all neighbours, particularly Pakistan, to support his peace and reconciliation endeavours. It is a replay of a similar strategy used in Iraq that produced significant results. But analysts are sceptical of any positive outcome from the new overture. No doubt it will generate debate and discussion but may produce little or no result to help restore peace to the war-torn Afghanistan.

Afghan leaders have demanded that the Taliban forswear violence and their association with al Qaeda before talks start. For their part, the Taliban have demanded that the Americans and other foreign forces leave the country first. Both are poles apart, how could negotiations succeed in this situation.

What do Taliban and other fighter groups say? Taliban have out-rightly rejected the offer for a dialogue and demanded withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. “The new offer is aimed at extending the invasion of Afghanistan by occupying forces. It is just a waste of time,” the statement attributed to the Taliban Leadership Council said. Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said they could not be bought by money and bounties. The only political solution is that the foreign forces and the Afghan government surrender to them.

Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, former Afghan premier and chief of the Hezb-e-Islami, the biggest party after Taliban in Afghanistan, wants withdrawal of foreign troops without any preconditions. “All the foreign forces must leave Afghanistan unconditionally. A permanent cease-fire must be enforced. All prisoners from all sides must be freed. An interim administration must take charge for one year,” said a Hekmatyar’s spokesman.

Issues American occupation of Afghanistan is the principal cause of the problem. As long as this occupation continues, resistance to it will invariably go on. To hope for peace without the withdrawal of foreign troops from the Pushtoon belt will be an illusion and wishful thinking.

A Pak-Afghan Jirga was held in the Afghan capital Kabul from 9th to 12th August 2007. I remember when I dubbed it a futile activity in one of my articles in a local daily, I was harshly criticised by a Peshawar-based writer of being ignorant, unrealistic and unaware of the worth of that activity. But my observations were later substantiated by increase in the number of attacks and failure of the process.

The Afghans are independent by nature and they have had fought the Mughals, the Sikhs, the British, the former USSR and will never welcome the new occupiers. As long as the US forces are there, there can’t be any peace there. But the plan doesn’t address this core issue altogether. With the US not showing any signs of an imminent pull-out from the war-torn country, any hope for the success of this mechanism may only be just a wishful thinking. This process will come out to be a fruitless exercise and wastage of time.

America, its allies and the Karzai ‘government’ want to divide and weaken the Taliban-led struggle. British foreign secretary David Miliband has also publicly stated that the aim of the Western countries was to divide the Taliban and overcome their resistance. The coalition only wishes a respite in attacks against the coalition forces there. It hopes that opposition to its presence will either subside or disappear in future. It wants peace but on the basis of its own terms and desires. Will the Taliban or Hikmatyar agree to it? They, as we all know, have their preconditions to enter into a meaningful dialogue.

America always seeks to divert attention from their attack and occupation to the resultant resistance and “terrorism” but completely neglect the mother of all ills – the US occupation of Afghanistan. According to Richard Holbrook, the overwhelming majority of these people are not ideological supporters of Mullah Omar and al Qaeda.

But that majority of fighters are not ideological fighters doesn’t mean that they are supporters of Hamid Karzai and the US occupation forces. The plan is based on the premise that Taliban gives their foot-soldiers higher salaries than the Afghan government can afford to pay its forces. This is unproven and misplaced, because most Afghan Taliban fighters and their families live in miserable conditions. Most are motivated by a desire to martyrdom or independence of their land. If the plan is considered in this backdrop, then the whole premise of buying off the Taliban is unsound and doomed to fail.

The size of the Nato-led force in Afghanistan will rise to 150,000 by year-end. But the surge alone will not ensure victory for them there. A political strategy will be needed but for that the huge gap between the opposing views of Taliban and the US will have to be reconciled. It necessitates a mediator or arbiter between the two.

But an arbiter usually starts work on the mutual request or at least upon the consent of the parties concerned. Again, an arbiter should be a neutral person or body of people respected by all parties and given authority. This is called “Waak” in Pushto. Has any ‘Waak’ been given to a third party or arbiter? As far as I know, no such thing has come forward so far.

Saudi Arabia has been asked for help for its respect among the Muslims. But its foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, says his country will take part in Afghan peace efforts only if the Taliban expel bin Laden and sever ties with militant networks. Will Taliban promise for that? They are yet to respond.

Though Karzai believes Pakistan can bring the Taliban to the negotiation table, there are indications that Pakistan has no worthwhile influence over the Taliban. Its influence over the Afghan Taliban and credibility has been on the decline ever since it joined the US war on terror. They didn’t accept Pakistan’s request to hand over Osama to the US; they rejected its persuasion to avoid the Bamiyan debacle; they didn’t deliver wanted Pakistanis hiding there and the like. Even now Pakistan will have little influence over them to motivate them to dialogue.

Chances The fact that Taliban and Hikmatyar are in no mood to support and join the process is sufficient not to associate any big hope with it. Both Taliban and Hikmatyar have made their support conditional with the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. And we know there is no such thing on the agenda.

Though some fighters would certainly stop fighting in return for favours, the majority would continue resisting the foreign forces and the temptations. Fighting is likely to continue in Afghanistan for the time being and a purely military victory is unlikely in Afghanistan.

Analysts say the removal of the men from the list is not likely to persuade other Taliban to abandon the fight as all five were relatively low-level leaders or had already deserted the Taliban. The US would have to show restraint and avoid dangerous actions that can make negotiations impossible or halt the process if it started at all. General amnesty will have to be given.

The US and Obama are desperate to win the war. Obama want a face saving gesture. Will the Taliban and other fighter groups give him that? Obama for sure is trying to win a war that no invader from Alexander the Great to Soviet Russia could win. Afghanistan still remains a safehaven for al Qaeda recruits despite nine years of war there.

Muhammad Azam Khan Hoti’s interview

Muhammad Azam Khan Hoti: a hard-core nationalist

BY Tahir Ali

(The News, December,2008)

Muhammad Azam Khan Hoti was born on 27 April, 1946 in a respectable and renowned political family of Mardan. He received his early education in Risalpur and later studied at the Aitchison College Lahore. He graduated from the Degree College Nowshera. After his graduation, Azam Hoti decided to join the Pakistan Army and was commissioned in1967 therein. He became a Captain in the Armoured Corps of the Pakistan Army and also took part in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. Thereafter, he sought retirement from Army on account of his domestic needs.

Azam’s passion to ameliorate the quality of life of the people of his area led him to join the National Awami Party (NAP) in 1972. He served the NAP and later the Awami National Party (ANP) actively after NAP was banned. He also remained in exile for several years. He has been a member of the ANP’s central and provincial executive committees and also led Nangialai Pakhtoon (ANP’s youth wing). Azam assumed more significance after his son, Amir Haider Hoti, became the Chief Minister of NWFP this year.

Azam was twice elected as an MNA from Mardan in 1990 and 1997 on ANP ticket and was twice made the Federal Minister for Communications in the Nawaz Sharif cabinets in 1991 and 1997. In March 1994, he was elected as a member of the Senate of Pakistan. He remained a member of different Senate Standing Committees.

He has close family ties with famous Pakhtoon nationalist leader Abdul Ghafar Khan Alias Bacha Khan. His sister Begum Naseem Wali was married to Late Abdul Wali Khan. So, ANP’s chief Asfandyar Wali Khan is his nephew from this aspect.

He has a loving nature and is widely known as a patient listener and astute speaker. The News on Sunday interviewed him recently. Excerpts follow.

The News on Sunday: You in ANP have always been campaigning for provincial autonomy. You have played a role for this purpose. Can you explain for our readers as to what do you mean by the term provincial autonomy?

Azam Khan Hoti: There is a very simple answer to this question. Provincial autonomy is not merely a matter of administrative powers. It, in our view, means our control over our own resources. We say that all our provincial resources- whether water, minerals, gas, forests, and the electricity produced here or anything else- should be left and handed over to the province. We think of provincial autonomy as financial autonomy. It is what we mean by the term provincial autonomy.

TNS: Our constitution has three power-lists-federal, provincial and concurrent ones. Are you satisfied with the constitutional mechanism in this regard?

AKH: The federal list specifies the domain of the federal organs while the provincial one narrates the areas where provinces work on their own. The concurrent list enumerates the combined domains of the two. At the time of constitution-making, a verbal promise was made that the concurrent list would be abolished within ten years for the empowerment of provinces but that too was not fulfilled as Zia imposed martial law and the constitution was suspended. But even the abolition of the concurrent list won’t suffice because that too falls short of what we think is necessary to give financial autonomy to the provinces; it touches minor issues such as the taking or withdrawing of certain departments from or to the provinces. We want complete control over our provincial resources.

TNS: Some people stress that all provinces should have equal representation in the lower chamber of parliament, the National Assembly. What are your views on that?

AKH: The Senate of Pakistan is there with equal representation for the provinces. But the problem is that it doesn’t have financial powers. Most of the powers are at present vested in the National Assembly where Punjab enjoys an absolute 64% majority and the three smaller provinces cannot compete with that majority even if they get together. So, either the Senate should be given financial powers or ‘they’ decide that each province would be handed over the control of all of its resources. If this is done, the problem will be solved.

TNS: Do you subscribe to the view that at present there is Punjab’s hegemony on our national scene? Also what do you think of apprehensions by certain quarters that we are heading fast towards East-Pakistan-like situation?

AKH: Indeed there is one. When all constitutional and legal paths are blocked, things then invariably go that way. This is why it is better to solve the problem through legal and constitutional means. Failure to do so results in disappointment. We should see as to why there is so much disillusionment in Baluchistan and why did the Baluchs take up arms? They were compelled to take up guns because their problems were not solved through legal and constitutional means and instead their leaders were started being killed. Law and constitution are the primary paths to resolve differences. But for these, you always need sensitivity and realisation within the federation. Unless there is a realisation that for the integrity and solidarity of federation of Pakistan each federating unit including Punjab has to be given its rights, the problem will be there. It’s not a matter of majority or largeness of area, it is only of sensitivity. If Punjab and Sind can have full authority on their wheat, cotton, and rice-crops and gas, why can’t Pukhtoonkhwa have on its forests, mineral and water resources? While hydro-power generation stations are located here, our province has been denied its due share. Many parts of Baluchistan still wait for gas facility which is supplied from there to most parts of the country. It is this lack of equity and justice that spoils things. I think the time has come where we have to decide that if we desire to save the federation, then the smaller federating units will have to be satisfied. Or else it would be very difficult to safeguard the federation of Pakistan, especially in the prevailing situation. The sooner this is done, the better for the country. Any delay in this connection will result in more and more problems for the federation.

TNS: How should the financial resources be distributed amongst the federating units, whether on the basis of population or income…?

AKH: (Interrupting) I have already said that each province has the right to own and control the resources found there. Baluchistan should be given the possession of gas. Sind and Punjab should also be given control of their provincial resources. But we also expect that we will be handed over the ownership of our various resources.

TNS: Let us now turn to the problem of militancy in tribal built of the country. What do you think helped produce the crisis: is it a result of the internal power-politics or are the alleged local extremist tendencies to blame or whether foreign hand is involved as you recently blamed the trouble on some foreign states?

AKH: Did religion come in 1980 which caused extremism? Why was there no extremism before that? Were there any Kalashnikov, RPG or rocket launchers ever seen in Pakistan before that? The truth is this all is the handiwork of our hands. All this is the result of our policies. We brought this ‘Fasad’ to Pakistan ourselves. In 80s, we jumped into a war that Russia and USA fought for their interests but we declared we were waging a Jihad. On the behest of the US, Zia took up the cause. US dollars and Jihadi forces were there to assist him. He facilitated, armed and enticed the ‘mujahideen’- imported from Algeria to Philippines- to fight for America in the name of Islam. And when ‘their’ priorities changed that Jihad became a Fasad overnight. We have kick-started the trouble ourselves. Weren’t Pakistan, religion, and mosque there before that? Wouldn’t people offer prayers and keep fasts before that? Did anyone take up gun? But then we gave them guns and pushed them to fight the Russians for American interests. And now when American priorities have changed and Russia is no more in the middle, we are pitted against those very people who were once created by the US.

TNS: Are there any foreign hands involved in the current uprising?

AKH: From the very outset, it was a foreign war. It was a war for the interests of the USA. Now there are many hands involved. God knows as to who and who is coming. All who try to destabilise or wish that, have jumped in-some may have nuclear problem, others may have border issue while others may have any other conflict with Pakistan. I think all of them are involved. It’s a free-style wrestling. No one knows in precision as to who’s fighting and for whom. Even many of those who fight in tribal areas have little knowledge as to why, for whom and with whose money and weaponry they are fighting. You know the rockets that hit my house in October were Russia-manufactured but Russia had stopped their production in 1967. The question is where did they come from into the hands of the miscreants? They may have arrived here either from Afghanistan or from where they were supplied by the Russians. After all we ourselves are to blame. Had we not taken part in that war for US interests, there wouldn’t have been any Fasad now.

TNS: But I am afraid only lamenting our past policies in this regard would be of no use. Some steps would have to be taken to solve the problem. What political steps do you suggest?

AKH: : Look! What is the present situation? Alqaeda, Usama and extremists from Algeria to Philippines were imported by the US. They were neither created by Pakistan nor Afghanistan. It was at best a problem between Pakistan and Afghanistan or an internal issue of the latter. What the Chechens, Arabs, Libyans and Egyptians had to do in it? They were brought here to use them. Now when the priorities have changed, they have been declared enemies. And then the real Taliban are there with Mullah Umar in Afghanistan. Where these Pakistani Taliban have come from? They were created by us then.

TNS: Who’s supporting the extremists at present from abroad? You had accused Mosad, India–?

AKH: (Interrupting) I think all those who want to destabilise Pakistan are involved.

TNS: What is the solution to this predicament?

AKH: The solution is that the insurgents realise that they are destroying their own country and shedding the blood of their own brothers. They should surrender arms and enter into a dialogue with the government. If they think that they would be able to solve problems through arms, they should know that never throughout history have problems been solved through arms. And it’s not that their bodies are made up of iron while only those of others are of flesh. They are just like other humans. And what has happened of late? Haven’t lashkars been formed against them in Bajaur, Mamoond, Buner, Dir and Kurram agency? The insurgents should know that while they are in thousands, the people come to crores. Never in history has any political movement succeeded without popular support, leave alone any militant one. So we ask them: come on! enter the political and electoral process. If you want the law of Shariah, go and seek popular votes on the issue like we do- When MMA was voted to power, wasn’t its mandate accepted by all? You know it was allowed to rule for full five years while we remained in the opposition during that period. If people support your manifesto, that there should be Talibanisation in the country, you are welcome to run the affairs of the country according to your mandate. The mandate should be respected. But you cannot be allowed to impose your will through the power of gun as it only entails lawlessness, killings, chaos and anarchy.

TNS: Which has always been done by the Army in Pakistan?

AKH: Army has done but it has not said that I’ll bring a system forcefully and will kill you. There have been dictators here like Musharraf who overran an elected government. There has been this kind of adventurism which we have opposed.

Again, one cannot deny the fact that all these kinds of Fitnas have always emerged during military rules in the country. Ayub aggravated the situation. When Yahya Khan came half of Pakistan went away. When Zia came, he started the ‘Jihad’and destabilised Afghanistan and Pakhtoons. When General Musharraf came, he made it into a ‘fasad’.  Never has Pakistan undergone damages like this in any civilian, democratic, political and elected governments throughout its history. Dictatorships have had always harmed the country which unfortunately all the time got backing from certain unprincipled politicians who do so for their personal interests. Gen Ayub was supported by Convention Muslim league, Zia by official Muslim league while Musharraf was backed by Muslim league Q.

The situation in tribal areas now is very alarming. It is not a problem of militancy; rather it’s pure insurgency. It’s an attack on the territorial integrity and solidarity of Pakistan. It’s an attack on the writ of the government. It’s a very serious problem.

TNS: What constitutional steps need to be taken to deal with the FATA problem?

AKH: You see FATA was there even in British period before the establishment of Pakistan. No cases of theft were ever reported then. No enmity-related murder remained untraced. There was no law and order problem in the area. No single fire was shot against its people from Pakistan’s soil. There was a status-quo and a system in the tribal built that worked. When that system was disturbed and the people were given guns in their hand and allowed to go wherever they wanted and shoot whoever they wished, this was bound to happen.

Don’t ‘they’ know where these militants are? Maulana Fazlullah has not come to the fore today. He has been there since long. You media men go and interview him which means he’s there but ‘they’ are still unable to trace him. This is all a predicament of our own making.

TNS: Don’t you think that tribal areas should be merged into the province?

AKH: Why not. It should of course be made a part of the province. There are tribal builts both in Punjab and Baluchistan but they are merged into the settled areas and are under the writ of the respective provincial governments.

We must remember that the British had introduced this mechanism for their ease. They divided pukhtoons by drawing the Durand-line and created differences between Pukhtoons on the two sides as well. Not only that, it created Afghanistan, Yaghistan, provincial and federal tribal areas. The British did so to disperse Pukhtoons and to impede their mutual links because they were afraid of their power and resilience. Never forget that the pukhtoons had ruled the subcontinent and the area from Bay of Bengal to the Amu River, including Kashmir, for over twelve hundred years. It was but natural for the British to try to weaken and control the Pakhtoons who could be a threat to them. It’s a known history. But what’s wrong with us.

Coming back to your question, political parties must be allowed to function in tribal areas. Whenever political parties and figures are given free access in these areas, things will automatically improve. At present, mainstream secular political parties are banned in FATA while Mullahs and religious parties are allowed to continue with their work there freely.

And look at the irony of the situation that while the FATA MNAs are elected to sit in the parliament that has come into being under the constitution of Pakistan, they are beyond the realm of that constitution. They take part in constitution making and legislations but are themselves exempted from those laws and are governed by the FCR. Isn’t it a contradiction in itself? What I mean is that the constitution should be extended to FATA; the areas should be made a part of the province; political parties should be allowed to establish their networks there; the tribal built should be given due attention and shares in developmental projects like settled areas; education, employment, health facilities and communication infrastructures should be given top priorities. It is only through more awareness, dialogue and development that you can hope we could successfully cope with this problem. Gun, violence and terrorism will only aggravate the situation.

TNS: Do you accept the view that there is a difference of opinion between the provincial and federal governments on how to tackle the insurgency. The ANP-led provincial government inked a pact with the TTP. But it was disowned by the advisor on interior Rehman Malik?

AKH: No. He later backtracked on his statement and the situation got cleared. We had signed a treaty with them and released Maulana Sufi Mohammad from prison. Mind you, he was in jail for more than seven years, during the five-year term of MMA government as well who didn’t free him despite the fact that he belonged to their ranks. Though he is still campaigning for what he wanted before his incarceration- the enforcement of Islamic laws- he’s doing it peacefully and hasn’t taken up arms for the purpose. The treaty was signed but it was violated. The writ of the government was challenged and the government was compelled to start the operation. It is untenable that on one hand treaty is signed and on the other militancy and insurgency is carried on while on its part the administration strictly follows the pact. The pact was broken by them, not by us.

TNS: ANP has all along been talking of non-violence. It had opposed the operation and war as an alien war. But now it says it is our war. Isn’t it a contradiction?

AKH: We still stand by our stand. We didn’t start the war. We didn’t initiate hostilities. Infact the war has been imposed on us. If we had initiated the hostilities we would have been guilty of violence. Non-violence doesn’t mean that you let someone kill you. when we are attacked, we have the right to defend ourselves.

TNS: This is precisely what Musharraf would say to validate his policy. Then what is the difference between you and him?

AKH: Musharraf said so after 2001. He didn’t talk like that before that. Before that ministers from both the countries would visit each other. When America changed its policy, Musharraf also followed suit. But we have been saying that from day one. The war has been imposed on us. We are being specifically targeted though the ANP has joined a provincial coalition government of which PPP is also a part. They want to fight with ANP. We still urge them to lay down arms, join the political setup, work in the masses and seek their support. If the electorate backs your agenda, you’re welcome to enforce your manifesto. No Muslim can oppose the law of Shariah but it has to be brought through the public mandate. Mullah sahib took a mandate on the issue but didn’t bring it.

The recent insurgency is not a problem confined to the provincial government. The territorial integrity and solidarity of Pakistan is at stake. The national fabric will suffer if the situation worsens any more. But then it was bound to happen. The war was bound to enter the tribal built from Afghanistan to ultimately spread to settled areas. The wrong policies of the past 28 years were bound to result in a situation like this.

TNS: Your critics say you are following a proactive policy rather than a defensive one. In this connection, they point to a decision regarding the resuscitation of ANP’s youth wing ‘Nangiali Pakhtoon’ in a meeting headed by Asfandyar a few months back. Your comments please.

AKH: It‘s wrong to say that. Infact we had decided to organise our party in that meeting. We are still trying to do it but it is meant only for our defence. We have never said we are at war with ‘them’. Have you ever noticed any lashkar from the ANP going to the tribal built to fight the insurgents? We would have been guilty only if we had utilised our party against them. It is quite the opposite. They come and attack us. We are only for our defence and peace.

TNS: ANP had promised of giving pen and book to Pakhtoon children but your critics say you have given guns in their hands by enticing them to tribal lashkars? How do you reconcile the two?

AKH: We still hold on to our stand. We want to see pens and books in the hands of our youth and would do whatever possible to do that. But this can only be possible if the militants lay down their arms.

TNS: Do you see any possibility that the insurgency will grow fainter in the near future?

AKH: Let us not be pessimistic. We should carry on with our struggles for resolving the issue. If there is sincerity and truthfulness, our endeavours shall succeed at last. Of course, you cannot do without peace and dialogue. So, peaceful endeavours should never be given up. The use of force is and should be the last option. It is being used because the other side dislikes peace. If they surrender their guns and want to hold talks, they would be welcomed.

TNS: The use of force, you said, is the last option but critics say it has become the first choice for the government?

AKH: The government started the operation under compulsion because the other side violated the agreement. We all know Maulana Falullah initially agreed to the pact but when Baitullah rejected it he also withdrew his support. You know there was peace for three months following the treaty. As per the agreement, prisoners, including Maulan Sufi Mohammad, were freed; Fazlullah’s complex at Mamdheri was declared an Islamic university; compensation had begun.

TNS: It has been observed that the two sides are suspicious of each other’s intentions. How can this lack of confidence be removed?

AKH: Mutual confidence can be easily created if vested interests get out of the way. The activist at the tale-end surely doesn’t know as to from where he is being funded and supplied. He sees and knows only the next hand but is ignorant of the many other elements involved in the supply chain. His commitment to, and sincerity with, the cause of Islam is being exploited by the vested interests.

TNS: What other steps do you propose to tackle the insurgency?

AKH: There should be two aspects of our strategy-long term and short term. The long term strategy includes adopting what we have been saying all these years: wind up the hurdles between Pakhtoons and allow the moderate political parties access into tribal areas just as Mullahs enjoy there. In the ongoing situation, we should however, give priority to the short term strategy, which is, that dialogue, development and other legal steps should be embraced. We should also resolve that if militants lay down their guns but are still attacked, we should side by them in that eventuality. First they should surrender their guns, then law, constitution, dialogue, development will be resorted to solve the problem slowly and gradually.

TNS: Where do you stand on the issue of renaming the NWFP?

AKH: In principle, the PPP agrees with the ANP that the name of the province be changed. But it requires a constitutional amendment to alter the name since it is written in the constitution of Pakistan. And for a constitutional amendment you need a 2/3rd majority in parliament. When we reach that stage, we will see to it that it is ensured. As far us, we already have been calling it Pakhtoonkhwa. And now we are grateful that even President Asif Ali Zardari has called it Pakhtoonkhwa. Mahmood Khan Achakzai and many others also share our view.

TNS: Critics say that renaming of the province is a non-issue and won’t solve the people’s problems related to water, power, health and education. How do you respond?

AKH: Have these problems been tackled when the name is NWFP? It’s a separate issue altogether. It’s an issue of identity. It was north western frontier province in the true sense of the word when the British were there. Now every province of Pakistan is a frontier province-one is eastern frontier province, the other is south western and the next is south eastern province. So, I don’t think NWFP is any name at all.

TNS: The NWFP is faced with an acute power and wheat-flour crises. Your opponents say the ANP and wheat-flour crisis are identical twins. What do you say?

AKH: It’s just a coincidence. I think the preceding caretaker government is to blame for the Atta crisis. They should have planned and sorted out the strategy for procurement and import of wheat which they didn’t. That is why the problem was inherited by the elected government. Our province doesn’t produce wheat sufficient for our needs. As provinces are not authorised to import wheat, we look towards Punjab and federal governments for our requirements. But even Punjab is faced with a wheat shortage and has to import wheat to feed its population. Lately, the ban on the supply of wheat by the Punjab government multiplied the crisis. Punjab government cited the alleged smuggling to Afghanistan and tribal areas as reasons for slapping the ban- but mind you, Pak-Afghan border is a loose border stretched upto fourteen hundred miles; it has always been very difficult to control movement across it even if we’ll allocate one million soldiers to the task; as long as the smuggling is there, the problem will be there. So there was a gap between demand and supply which exacerbated the problem. And now when supply-quota has been enhanced, the situation has eased out, although the greedy profiteers, who smuggled Atta to Afghanistan, have earned a lot of money. The fact is that the Pakistani planners prepare our food-estimates only for the four provinces but they overlook the reality that Pakistan has to feed the 20million people in tribal areas and as many in Afghanistan as well. So we’ll have to plan in advance to be able to supply atta to the population as per its demand.

TNS: What factors do you think contributed to the power crisis in the country?

AKH: The Musharraf administration has displayed a criminal negligence in this regard. It didn’t add up a single unit in the national grid in its eight years’ tenure while the population has increased about 40%. When demand increases and supply remains the same, there will certainly be a crisis and there is one. Again, the nature is also unkind to us as there is less water in our rivers. And while President Ayub had sold the rights of three rivers Sutlej, Beas and Ravi to India, the latter has built the Baglihar dam over Chenab and is planning another three. I think next wars will be fought only over water and grain.

TNS: It was being hoped that as ANP enjoyed pleasant relations with Hamid Karzai and India, there would be some relief on the two fronts with ANP coming into power. What are your views on that?

AKH: Haimd Karzai has some grievances. He is faced with an uprising and he thinks that insurgents enter into Afghanistan from tribal areas. India has its own problem with Pakistan on Kashmir. Where is ANP in this equation? ANP always asked for peaceful relations with neighbours and still abides by it. If we had friendly relations with our neighbours, there would have been problems with neither India nor Afghanistan like we don’t have with China. You are right, ANP could have served as a bridge but there are many anti-ANP forces that tried to create hurdles in its way.

TNS: Could you identify these forces please?

AKH: These forces are against the stability of Pakistan and peace in the region. They block the way of forces that could bring stability in the region. See! When we can have good relations with Iran and China, why can’t we have ones with India and Afghanistan? You stop interference in Afghanistan and stop infiltration of armed people into its territory from tribal built, relations will automatically improve. And if Afghanistan severs its relations with us even after that, it will be at fault. The fault lies primarily with us. And if we won’t do it ourselves, Afghanistan is now in the hands of the US and NATO forces and they will safeguard their interests at all costs. After all they haven’t come here to go back; they are here for Central Asia’s oil and gas reservoirs and will stay for long unless their interests are fulfilled. When we as their friends will not do what they say, they will do it themselves.

TNS: When Musharraf joined the coalition, ANP supported him along with PML Q and by default USA. Why did you take that decision?

AKH: Had the US troops not come to Afghanistan and expelled Usama and his men from there, Afghanistan would have ‘Arabanised’ within the next ten years. Arabs may be otherwise very good people but if they were there, half of pakhtoon nation would have been Arabs by now which was not acceptable to us. We Pakhtoons are not ready to compromise on our caste and identity which were endangered. Since Pakistan didn’t want to expel him nor could any other power ensure his ouster, we just thanked the US for this precise reason. We had said that Afghanistan should be left to fashion its affairs without any foreign interference. And say even now you keep your hands away and let Afghanis decide their future themselves.

TNS: You mean US and NATO troops should get out of there?

AKH: The US won’t leave unless and until Afghanistan achieves self-rule.

TNS: Don’t you think that the militancy/insurgency in the region is directly related to American presence here?

AKH: It was tied with it in the past too, with the difference that then they would fire there. But they have started doing it here now. And you look at the respective role of the religious parties. You know they had waged a holy war against the USSR. One is reminded of a picture of Qazi sahib having a Pistol tied to himself. But he doesn’t go for Jihad now; even he can’t talk of it. Can he now declare a Jihad against the US forces? The fact is he can go to war for America but not against it.

TNS: People say Musharaf has gone but his policies are still being followed. How do you respond?

AKH: No, this government has inherited the militancy problem from Musharraf. It will take some time and strategy to get out of the situation. It is unthinkable that the present regime can/will follow his policies, but it is caught up in the middle. What can it do and where can it go? The situation is not of its own making; it’s a Musharraf legacy.

TNS: What party-portfolio do you hold at present? Also, Mardan doesn’t have any representation in ANP’s central and provincial positions after Amir Haider Hoti bequeathed his Deputy General Secretaryship and became NWFP CM?

AKH:Yes there is none but it doesn’t matter. I have had neither hold nor have been given any slot in party; I never have sought one nor seek at present. We are all like a family and care the least for these things. We are all equal and respect each other. We are all activists of ANP working under a programme and leadership. There is no problem whatsoever of this sort in ANP.

TNS: There is a perception regarding ANP that it always has been looking for foreign support. For example, both USSR and now USA are accused of genocide of Pakhtoons but ANP kept mum on their actions. How do you react?

AKH: ANP has neither supported one nor the other. Regarding the 80’s war, ANP leaders had said that it was not a Jihad and was a war for the interests of USA and USSR while Pakhtoons were being crushed. And now, we say the foreign forces are making the Pakhtoons fight against each other to destroy them and to destabilise Pakistan. We have our own politics and programme. We neither look towards this side nor that side.

TNS: Would you like to share your future plans with us? Where would you prefer to go in case of any eventuality?

AKH: Politics is a merciless phenomenon. It doesn’t have a heart in its chest that beats. In it, a friend of today may well be an enemy of tomorrow and vice-versa. It’s very difficult to predict it.

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