Terrorism and the All Parties Conference | By Tariq Aqil


Terrorism and the All Parties Conference

IT was on 16 December 2016 that the dark and sinister forces of religious extremism and bigotry extinguished the life of about 150 innocent Pakistanis mostly students and teachers in the deadly attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. It was after this gruesome happening that the political leaders and the military establishment put their heads together and came up with the national plan to combat the scourge of religious terror and bigotry.

After many sacrifices the military establishment managed to uproot the terror machine of the TTP from the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan. After seven years terror again stalks the land and history has repeated itself with the recent blood bath in Peshawar once again killing over 100 people and dozens more severely injured. This tragedy has once again forced the government to give a call for an All Parties Conference and this proposed conference has already been postponed twice.

This conclave is meant to discuss the security threats faced by the country and to come up with viable plan in the aftermath of this latest wave of terrorism faced by the nation. It has taken the death of over a hundred innocent citizens for the powers that matter to finally wake to the immediate and urgent need for a befitting response to the challenge of Islamic militancy and religious terror unleashed by the TTP. The suicide bombing of the Peshawar mosque sent shock waves throughout the country but failed to bridge the yawning chasm between the political elite who remain divided and unsure.

The entire nation is grieved and horrified at the senseless butchery in Peshawar but there appears to be no consensus or agreement on a unified plan of action on how to deal with this monster and to force the perpetrators of this crime to face justice according to the law of the land.

The PDM coalition government and the PTI are still at loggerheads over their own political issues and are in no mood to develop a practical plan of action and the people of Pakistan wait with abated breath for some response from their political leaders and the establishment. So far Imran Khan and the PTI leaders have refused to attend the APC and the very start of the APC has now become doubtful. Imran Khan has always supported and applauded the actions of the TTP and it was on the victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan that he said, “The Taliban have broken the shackles of slavery” throughout his political career he has voiced support and admiration for the Taliban and had even advocated to allow them to open their office in Pakistan.

The PPP, ANP, PMLN and the MQM have been openly critical and opposed to all policies of the TTP and have been the target of their wrath. In the elections of 2018 it was only the PTI that had the support and blessings of the Taliban and all other political parties received threats and were not allowed to conduct their election campaign. The burden of responsibility now rests firmly on the shoulders of the PTI to rein in the brutal and deadly militants of the TTP and save the country from their ferocious attacks.

The attitude and the policy of the PTI regarding the terrorists is rather shocking and shameful but at the same time the PDM government too does not seem very keen to get the PTI onboard for this national cause. Petty political agenda appears to be of greater value than the national interest and this throws a spanner in the entire process of holding an APC to formulate a national plan to eradicate terrorism and religious militancy from the country.

The political parties and their leaders just fail to realize that the regrowth of terrorism and militancy poses a grave danger to the very existence of the country. So far there is no clear national narrative or plan on how to deal with the forces responsible for terror tactics and refusing to accept the writ of the state. There is an urgent need to develop a national strategy to deal with the present situation but it is also a fact that state policies are not made at multiparty meetings of politicians and such a gathering can only help in developing a consensus between the political parties but the government and the military establishment have to come up with a national action plan once again. The state has been engaged in peace talks with the groups that have claimed responsibility for the Peshawar Police Line Mosque attack.

Thousands of militants were allowed to return to their homes in the KP by the PTI government and the recent surge in terrorism is the result of the appeasement policy followed by the government during the last four years and even now there is no indication that the govt. intends to correct its course of action regarding the TTP. It may not be possible now to uproot the TTP militants because the State itself has allowed them to regain their lost space. Ironically the victory won against the insurgents has been reversed and it appears that the State has now surrendered to the evil forces of terrorism condemned and vilified by all civilized nations of the world.