Tehreek-i-Taliban & Pakistan | By Tariq Aqil

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Tehreek-i-Taliban & Pakistan

AFGHANISTAN witnessed the rebirth of the Taliban in August 2021 when they took control of the country after the hasty inglorious exit of the American forces.

The Taliban victory in Afghanistan was welcomed by the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan when he announced jubilantly that the Taliban “have broken the shackles of slavery”.

The appeasement policy for the Taliban of the Pakistani Prime Minister is no secret, he has always supported and agreed with the political agenda of the Taliban and even during the time when the Pakistani Taliban were attacking and wreaking havoc across the country he called them “our brothers” and proposed giving them space for an office in Islamabad.

In august last year it came as no surprise when he announced that his government is holding peace negotiations with the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan so that they lay down their arms and become peaceful and patriotic Pakistanis and integrate into Pakistani society as peaceful and law abiding citizens of a democratic nation.

The rule of the civilized world is “No negotiations with terrorists” but Imran Khan insists on negotiating and welcoming them.

Has he got any legal or constitutional right to do so? Of course he has every right and as the Prime Minister he is supposed to take some hard decisions for the greater good of the country and the nation.

In an interview to a Turkish journalist Ali Mustafa the Pakistani PM admitted categorically that his government is engaged in serious talks with the TTP and even before that two prominent stalwarts of the PTI that is Arif Alvi and Shah Mahmoud Qureshi had also hinted that the government is engaged in negotiating with the TTP safely ensconced across the border in Afghanistan.

The TTP has the blood of over 80000 Pakistanis including school children on its hands. This country has not faced such a deadly enemy before.

The danger of our arch enemy India fades into insignificance when compared to the grave danger and bloody onslaught of the TTP.

This policy of appeasement followed by the PTI regime is definitely something to be worried about and the nation has every right to question this insane approach.

The TTP is not only an enemy of the Pakistani government but also of the Pakistani state and civil society. In their fanatical attacks on Pakistan they have not spared anybody.

Schools, homes, offices, Mosques, churches, Mandirs, shrines and bazaars were targeted and terror unleashed without impunity.

Women, children, old people, soldiers, policemen and civil servants were gunned down mercilessly.

The horrific wounds inflicted by the obscurantist extremist band of blood thirsty fanatics are very deep in our society and it will take a lot of time for these wounds to be healed.

The PTI regime finally ended up on the dust heap of history and the new coalition government has yet to announce its policy regarding their treatment of the Taliban.

The new rulers must keep in mind that dealing with this who are responsible for bathing this society in blood cannot be taken lightly.

This is a grave and momentous decision that will affect the future of the country and this historical decision just cannot be taken behind closed doors.

This decision cannot be shrouded behind the veil of national security. Even today the entire civilized world has refused to grant recognition to the Taliban regime in Kabul so what right has Pakistan got to forgive all the deadly sins of the TTP?

The real question is if the Pakistan government has the moral and legal right to forgive the Taliban and negotiate with them on an equal footing without the input of the elected Parliament and without hearing the version of the people of Pakistan.

Now that the nation has been informed that the government is negotiating with the Taliban there is an urgent need to frame a policy based on the ground situation keeping in mind the track record of the TTP and our own national interests.

For a start, the National Assembly should start a debate and the Foreign Minister should begin with a policy statement to explain the rationale and methodology of the negotiations with the TTP.

This debate should be held in a joint session of Parliament to be televised nation-wide. Leaders of all political parties in Parliament should announce their party’s position on the matter.

This discussion in Parliament will definitely generate a debate in the media (including social media) that will help the government to understand the mood of the nation.

After the debate, the government should then table a resolution outlining their basic objectives and parameters of their talks with the Taliban.

This resolution should be in consensus with the opposition so that it can be adopted without any opposition and in consensus with all stakeholders. Competence and good governance are now things of the past.

We can now at least adopt a policy of common sense to avert a future disaster by molly coddling the Taliban.

—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.