“We believe in a Pakistan envisioned by Jinnah in his speech of Aug 11, 1947, and an Islam as understood by Iqbal in his well enunciated Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. Pakistan should be a non-theocratic country, though steeped in its Muslim tradition of humanity, emancipation, equal opportunities, welfare and freedom for all to practice their respective faiths.” Very impressive words. Here is the complete article written by Dr Arif Alvi, secretary-general of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
The terror situation in Pakistan is getting worse every year. If the number of killings and suicide bombings are any indicator, statements by many politicians and by government functionaries that the terrorism is the terrorists’ last stand is based more on optimism than reality. Mr Imran Khan offered to negotiate peace much before the Americans started to talk to the Taliban in Afghanistan, but our lobby supporting the ”War-on-Terror” accused him of being a Taliban sympathiser.
The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf is not a supporter of the Taliban. Far from it. We condemn the violence perpetrated by the Tehrik-e-Taliban or any other group against innocent people. The PTI condemns those who murder and slaughter people. However, we believe that the Taliban label also encompasses those who are reacting to the US presence in Afghanistan. They fight the army and target the civilian population because of the US presence in Pakistan. What are referred to as Taliban also include fundamentalists who believe that Sharia should be imposed, even against the wishes of the people, because of disillusionment with the present system of justice in Pakistan. Meanwhile, many who suffered the war’s collateral damage are out for revenge. This is not to mention “local” and “outside” agencies (the latter including those sponsored by India), and criminals belonging to land and drug mafias who want to take advantage of the strife.
The PTI and Imran Khan have advocated efforts to understand the problem, not support to the Taliban. We equally oppose this “War on Terror,” which is not a primary solution. When the army, prompted by foreign interests, calls the shots in an area infested by terrorists and in a situation with political-religious elements to it, its action will always lead to heavy-handed treatment of civilians and killing of innocents. This, in turn, increases hatred, ethnic polarisation and overall worsening of the situation. The army, which bears the brunt, has lost countless brave soldiers, and innocent civilians have been killed, in the so-called Taliban areas and throughout Pakistan.
The civil government is not calling the shots because it is under US-Pentagon pressure, from foreign officials in remote lands running a “joystick war.” Temporary gaps in this battle lull us into thinking that things are getting better. Justifications for the war will become untenable in a few years, but by that time we will have caused enormous damage to the Pakistan polity. A war on terror presumes tremendous collateral damage.
Far from justifying terror and offering excuses for it, the PTI and Imran Khan merely emphasise its multi-factor origin. We continue to be in a time warp of our own although, looking for solutions, even our US masters have started to identify the differences among the Taliban. Our policies and our elite opinion are just delayed echoes of Washington. The PTI believes that once we understand the reasons for the malady, we will come up with viable treatments for it, before the disease becomes terminal.
Somebody has to talk to what are labelled as Taliban and seek out their grievances. There are thousands of Taliban prisoners in Pakistan. The media should reach them and find for us the root causes of their frustration. We have adopted in our discourse about the problem the “Bushism” that they are simply against our “freedoms and liberties.” The elite in Pakistan believe that the Taliban have an extreme Sharia which they want to impose on us. This may be true of some groups, but I am also sure that if the media is allowed to hear them out and then inform us of the point of views of even the arrested criminals, we will be closer to understanding the reason for the phenomenon. If we choose to see only an extremist face, then the sight can only prompt extreme solutions.
A Rand Corporation study published in 2007, which had surveyed all terrorist situations from 1968 to 2006, concluded that military force has rarely been the primary reason for the defeat of terrorist groups. The phenomenon can only be handled through a range of policy instruments, which include negotiations. Army action has glaringly failed in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention Palestine the original “War on Terror.”
Pakistan is in trouble on too many fronts to be able to bear the colossal cost in human, political and financial terms. Like all Muslims since 9/11, Musharraf, while condemning terror, wanted to focus world attention on the causes of terror. Tragically the same argument was promptly forgotten when we ourselves were hit, becoming the victims of this senseless conflict too.
Let us not take dictates, because foreign dictation involves our losing our own perspective. Terror has no doubt also become our problem, but with reasons that remain beyond our borders. We should use our own medicine for this disease. Instead we are forced into entering the vicious cycle of terror begetting terror.
Talks and efforts for understanding do not exclude army action. But today it is more stick and little carrot. The PTI and Khan only advocate more carrot and less stick if we are to find a real solution. In any case, we will start talking sooner rather than later, since our masters have already begun to change course. They are no longer reluctant to commit the ”heresy” of grading the Taliban into different groups, the ultimate result of which will be talking to the enemy.
Let us likewise be open to possible solutions for which we may need a paradigm shift and some lateral thinking: in the beginning no one has a clear solution, ourselves included. It would be a long path to peace.
We believe in a Pakistan envisioned by Jinnah in his speech of Aug 11, 1947, and an Islam as understood by Iqbal in his well enunciated Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. Pakistan should be a non-theocratic country, though steeped in its Muslim tradition of humanity, emancipation, equal opportunities, welfare and freedom for all to practice their respective faiths.
Email: arifalvi@ cyber.net.pk
Source: The News, 5 Apr 2010