Q. Who are Taliban?
The story started with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Fearing Russian expansionism, CIA married ISIand gave birth to the Jihadis euphemistically called Taliban. Zia-ul-Haq midwifed the birth whileSaudis and ISI provided the initial schooling. Taliban grew up munching on a diet of Wahibism. Armed with dollars, American weapons and of course the jihadi fervor, Russians were given a serious beating and forced to withdraw from Afghanistan.During the Russian episode, Taliban were given sanctuaries in our tribal belt to plan and train. A countrywide network of madrassas was also set up to ensure a never ending supply of ideologically driven Jihadis to the Afghan war.
Q. What is strategic depth doctrine?
Emboldened by the defeat delivered to the mighty Russians, Pak Army forged the strategic depth doctrine which envisaged a Taliban regime in Kabul. Having a friendly government in Kabul would secure Pakistan’s western border and we could then focus all our might on the eastern border with India.
Q. What about good and bad Taliban?
No, there is only one kind, bad. But as part of the efforts to confuse public, a deliberate distinction was created by the powers that be. Afghan Talibanare deemed good Taliban being the guardians of our beloved strategic depth doctrine. TTP, our own home grown militants are deemed bad Taliban. Bothfeed off each other and claim to be fighting a war in the larger interest of Islam. Imagine a scenario in which our strategic assets, the good Afghan Taliban take over Kabul post US withdrawal in 2014. Having fought off Russians and Americans, would these good Taliban leash their ambition to stay within the frontiers of Afghanistan? No. They would look towards Pakistan for expansion of the Islamic emirate and will count on their natural allies, TTP. Not to forget how a Taliban regime in Kabul will excite and inspire TTP to have their own emirate.That would be a nightmare for Pakistan.
Q. Why is Pakistan so divided on Taliban?
Because our gullible people see them fighting in the name of Islam against the infidel America. Because Taliban speak of supremacy of theirShariah in Pakistan.Because our own miserable governance record has given people a genuine reason to look for alternatives. Because parties like PTI and JI have done their bit by disowning the war against TTPand by defending their heinous acts as retaliation against drones. This has not only confused the common man but also created enormous social space for TTP. Ordinary folk terrorized by the unrelenting blasts want respite and are willing to give anything a try no matter how irrational.
Q. Is the war against TTP our war?
Our war for sure. To set the record straight, we should not have joined the US war against Russia. However, we did out of greed and fear. Now our own spawn has turned against us. The state has no choice but to fight against those who occupy its territory illegally, challenge the state writ and do not subscribeto the constitution of Pakistan. These terrorists are no different from common criminals. If indeed anything is different it is the fact that they kill in the name of God.
Q. Is talking with TTP a good idea?
No. Despite the APC and clear government intentions of taking peace to the terrorists, the acts of barbaric violence continue. This is understandable. Do you expect TTP to opt out of the highly profitable jihad, forfeit their little dominions and become truck drivers, barbers? Engaging TTP is also well-nigh impossible as it is not a single entity. It is an umbrella group sheltering dozens of smaller groupswith their own agendas and interests. Not to forget the slew of brigands who have happily joined TTP to furthertheir business of ransom, murder in the name of God.
Talk,if we must, should be from a position of strength. The state should make it clear that only the state monopolizes violence and should accept no pre-conditions to talks.
Q. We have fought TTP for nine years. Should we not give peace a chance?
We have had at least 4 peace accords namelyShakai, Sargodha peace accord, Miranshah peace deal and one other. All fell flat yielding nothing. Swat is also a case in point where the peace deal was abused by the militants to subjugate the local population to their version of Islam. Luckily Pakistan woke up to it and liberated Swat after a highly successful military operation.
Q. Why do religious parties and Imran Khan support talks with TTP?
Imran does it out of misplaced conviction, self-righteousness. He believes nine years of war against TTP has not yielded any dividend. The situation has in fact gotten worse. True. But the peace deals struck also yielded nothing. The truthis the army obsessed with its strategic depth doctrine never put its heart in exterminating militants. It was also apprehensive of a divided polity and sought consensus for a full blown operation.
JI and other religious parties have been repeatedly rejected by the electorate. They have no other option but to clutch onto TTP mantra of Jihad to stay socially and politically relevant. In essence these religious parties have become Taliban proxies.
Q. What is the solution?
We need to first abandon this illusion of political consensus on the best way to deal with Taliban. Nawaz has the mandate to bulldoze disagreement and go ahead with his strategy to tackle terrorists. Declare an all-out war followed by on ground action. This will secure a position of strength for the state to productively negotiate and identify those groups who want to lay down arms and embrace the constitution. The rest can then be sorted out with brute force. While we fight this war, madrassa network brain washing our youth should be tamed and brought under state control. In time other actions like economic empowerment of the remote tribal areas will help ease the pressures that nudge the youth towards the deadly embrace of extremism.