View Full Version : PTI’s peace plan (2) - Zirgham Nabi Afridi - 24th October 2012 (The News)

24th October 2012, 10:28 AM
The PTI has categorically stated that the primary objective of its entire strategy is to isolate these few extreme elements from the base of their support – ie, the local tribes. While not intending to subvert the state and Constitution of Pakistan, most of the tribals supporting the violent ways of the TTP believe that they are fighting against “America’s war.” And when American drones attacks inside Pakistan take the lives of innocent men, women and children, the tribesmen are motivated in making the cause of the TTP their own. The PTI believes in trying to lure these tribesmen away from the extreme elements bent upon subverting the state, and the party is making efforts in this regard. And the drone attacks are not helping.

While any patriotic Pakistani will agree that no segment of a population can be allowed to challenge the writ of the state, in the case especially of the tribal areas, one should be mindful of the fact that the state has failed to act in a way that would be in the fundamental interest of the people in these areas. While a state must control violence within its borders, it also includes its people in the process of governance, builds roads, lays down sewerage systems, and provides schools, hospitals, jobs and justice. Has the state of Pakistan provided these to the people of the tribal belt in the last six decades since independence?

More importantly, in deciding to side with America in its “war on terror,” did the state of Pakistan – then under the rule of military dictator Pervez Musharraf – consult people in the tribal belt before taking a decision that was going to adversely affect their lives? The fear of being bombed into the Stone Age, the recognition and political support Musharraf had to gain from allying with US, and the boost to the failing Pakistani economy from US aid made the choice so easy for those in power and the bulk of civil society supporting it. No one considered taking the views of our tribesmen into account, leaving them no choice but to take up arms against the state and in the process being branded as Taliban.

Therefore, before charging Pakistani citizens from the tribal belt with treason for taking up arms against the state, we must have the courage to ask what the state means to them and put the answers up in these op-ed pages. Maybe then we will find out that the vast majority of those from the tribal belt fighting our security forces are fighting a foster state that has failed them and failed, in any real terms, to grant them any legitimacy as equal citizens of this country.

Once we approach the problem within this paradigm we begin to understand why Imran and the top PTI leadership believe in real negotiations and discussions with people living in the war-torn tribal areas of our country and the TTP and other groups which have taken up arms against the state. This is done with the fundamental, and realistic, belief that war is not the solution to the problems resulting from the debacle following the US invasion of Afghanistan. A belief also borne out of a realistic assessment based on the army chief’s own words on a number of occasions that the outcome of a military operation, at best, is to provide space for political activities to try bringing in lasting peace. Not merely as a philosophical point of view but after Pakistan’s having tried and failed to eliminate those who have taken up arms against the state, in the same way as the Americans and Nato are failing in Afghanistan. However, collective amnesia strikes when abhorring and grotesque incidents like the one involving Malala Yousafzai take place and we cry loudly for war, forgetting we have already gone down that route only for those we fight to disperse and regroup somewhere else.

It is with this twofold belief and realisation that the bulk of violent elements within our borders fighting against our security forces are Pakistani tribesmen, and that the vast majority among them are fighting against US occupation in Afghanistan and against Pakistan’s role in it-and not to impose shariah in the rest of the country – it is with this belief that the PTI will first and foremost officially end Pakistan’s role in the “war on terror.” The drone attacks, a symbol of direct impact of the American war on our soil, will be aggressively protested against in all possible international forums and legal avenues, and shooting them down if need be.

While leaving no stone unturned to make it clear to everyone in Pakistan and abroad that Pakistan is out of the “war on terror,” the PTI will begin making the case to our people in the tribal areas, through a process of negotiations and dialogue, to persuade them to stop fighting against the state. At the same time, it will immediately implement and execute in earnest a reconstruction and development programme for the region along with massive compensatory disbursements.

During this process, it is hoped that the extreme parties within the tribesmen also decide to lay down their arms. If not, they will at least be successfully isolated from the majority body and be dealt with, with cooperation from the local tribes.

These will be very challenging times for the country and for the process of negotiations. The few who wish only to subvert the state will become more desperate and in their actions become more violent and ruthless in a bid to derail the negotiations. The cool that the PTI leadership has displayed in sticking to its principled stance, even amid the emotional frenzy that gripped the entire country after the Malala incident, shows that it is the party best prepared to take the country through that difficult time.

With an eye to the future, especially the post-2012 Nato pullout from Afghanistan, the PTI’s peace plan is best suited to Pakistan’s interests. Nato has failed. A newly trained Afghan Security Force cannot realistically be expected to be successful in achieving what Nato with all its firepower and funds failed to achieve. The Taliban will be back in power at least in the region close to our tribal belt.

Pakistan will then need to rely on the links, relations and bonds between the people in its tribal belt and the Afghans on the other side, especially with the Taliban, to chart out a course for peaceful coexistence that brings prosperity to both sides. Therefore, the only way forward is efforts towards building peace within our own border by negotiating with our tribesmen and empowering them to take control over their own development as an integral part of the Pakistani body politic. By pursuing the way of violence, we will not only fail to bring about peace to our tribal belt and the rest of the country, we will also lose our greatest asset in helping us deal effectively with the post-2014 situation on the ground. Imagine trying to fight a war in our tribal region with Nato gone and the Afghan Taliban free to help their brethren on this side of the border.