Published Date: Feb 11, 2014
Experts remain divided over negotiations with Taliban
Experts remain divided on negotiations with the Taliban, even as the talks continue. At a special seminar organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here today, panelists expressed that the issue of militancy is not just confined to the Taliban alone but reflects wider dimensions of violence spreading throughout Pakistan. Panelists at the occasion included Ayaz Wazir, Former Ambassador, Lt. General (R) Talat Masood, Jan Achakzai, JUI (F) Spokesperson, Zahid Hussain, Senior Media Analyst, and MNA Nadeem Afzal Gondal of the PPPP.
Speaking at the occasion, Ayaz Wazir observed that the teams nominated by the Government and the Taliban have now declared FATA as a “conflict-zone”, ignoring the conflict situation in other parts of the country. He said that prior to 9/11, FATA had been a peaceful region with crime rates much lower than other parts of the country. The security situation in FATA worsened as troops were sent into the region on orders from “overseas” in the aftermath of the USA’s invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11. The FATA region has had no representation of the local population in its administration, and continues to be administered under presidential orders. He observed that continued fighting has not led to peace in the country and negotiations are the only way to bring about peace. However, it is important that the local populations are also taken on board in any decision taken in the matter. He said that reportedly, the Taliban have observed no objections over the Constitution of Pakistan so far. The points that they have made are worth consideration. Their demand about withdrawal of troops is not theirs alone but of the FATA population at large. There should be gradual withdrawal of troops from the region since it is not practical to pull out all the troops at once, while decisions should be handed over to political actors representing the locals.
Lt. General (R) Talat Masood expressed that the Constitution of Pakistan is already in line with the Sharia; the Taliban are using the argument for imposition of Sharia as a medium to capture power by bypassing the constitution and democracy in the country. On the demand of withdrawal of troops, he said that Pakistani troops are present in all other parts of the country for protection of the citizens and therefore it makes no sense why the FATA region should be exempted from their presence. Establishing the writ of the state throughout the country is of utmost importance while allowing sanctuaries would wreak havoc across the country in multiple ways leading to innumerable problems. Any country where the state has the responsibility of protecting the citizens has to establish its writ for the purpose, he said.
Jan Achakzai observed that so far an assymetrical war has been underway in the context of the fight against militancy in Pakistan. There continues to be lack of institutional capacity to address the issue of militancy in a holistic manner. He noted that the narrative of far-right, which has led to militancy, cannot be defeated by that of the far-left in the country. It is also important that a local conflict resolution mechanism be adopted to address the issue of militancy in the tribal belts. He added that if talks succeed with the Masud tribe, which constitutes a significant proportion of foot-soldiers engaged in militancy, a way forward in bringing a stop to the insurgency might become more feasible.
Zahid Hussain said that negotiations with the Taliban would bring legitimacy to an outlawed militant group, which in turn would compromise the authority of the state. He observed that unlike this time, in the past none of the peace deals were directly undertaken by the Government of Pakistan. Agreeing to negotiations with a militant group would imply bringing them on equal footing with the state, he observed. He added that in the past, all of the peace deals were violated by the Taliban and other militant groups and not by the Government. Most of these violations did not have much to do with drone-strikes either and came as a direct challenge to the writ of the state. More importantly, the Taliban do not represent the people of the tribal areas of Pakistan and therefore they should not be given control of these areas. He also said that the state has the authority to use every means to protect the lives of citizens and that the militants should be made to surrender to the state.
MNA Nadeem Afzal Gondal highlighted that the problem of militancy in Pakistan began with the fight against the Soviet Union. Once the USA had achieved victory against the Soviets in Afghanistan, those who were used in the fight were left on their own, leading to a “klashikov” culture in the country, where they had to resort to violent means for their living. He also said that no one questions about the source of funding available to various militant factions in the country. It is important that the establishment, foreign actors and political forces in Pakistan work towards stabilizing relations with all the neighboring countries so as to bring peace to the region.