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Published Date: Feb 10, 2014

SDPI Press Release (February 10, 2014)


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.