Keen to talk to the Taliban?

Swat, 2009: A reminder of the Taliban's brand of 'justice' - public floggings were the least of their punishments. Photo: European Pressphoto Agency

Swat, 2009: A reminder of the Taliban’s brand of ‘justice’ – public floggings were the least of their punishments. Photo: European Pressphoto Agency

Keen to ‘negotiate’ with the Taliban in Pakistan? Really? First read Nazish Brohi’s oped in Dawn, reproduced below. 

Failure of the war

By Nazish Brohi

IT is ‘APC’ season again. Karachi residents associate the acronym with armoured personnel carriers that contain and occasionally protect besieged policemen.

The political APCs on the other hand contain besieged politicians who are hoping for occasional protection. Take it from the Lyari cops in Karachi — if you underplay what you are up against, APCs don’t work.

The all-party conference emerged as a tool when the region was ruled through Westminster, redundant now that we have a parliament. Since the political parties outside parliament, Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf and Jamaat-i-Islami, did not attend the Awami National Party APC anyway, all the parallel platform did was reduce the representation to core power elites of already elitist political parties. Consensus-building tools to directly involve the public would have helped more.

Remember Shabana, a dancer in Swat, killed by the Taliban in 2009. Photo: Rashid Iqbal/European Pressphoto Agency

Remember Shabana, a dancer in Swat, killed by the Taliban in 2009. Photo: Rashid Iqbal/European Pressphoto Agency

Deliberating on Pakistani Taliban negotiations without consulting women who are more than half the population is not just exclusionary but criminal neglect, since they are directly an aggrieved party. This is the cue for routine responses pointing out that the women of Swat supported the Taliban’s rise to power. But taking that at face value is akin to a modern-day diagnosis of drapetomania.

Drapetomania was a mental illness diagnosed by American physician Samuel Cartwright in the mid-19th century, affecting only black slaves. The chief symptom of the disease was described as the uncontrollable urge to run away, blocking off the exploitative context in which the trend emerged.

Across Swat, women say Fazlullah offered them the opportunity to become actors shaping their environment. His earlier sermons insisted women were stakeholders who would play an important role in creating an Islamic society that would be a conduit for justice and representation.

Once the Taliban started torture and beheadings, women were terrorised. The Taliban’s violence against women and their misogynist ideology are well-known if not well-documented. Instead of a drapetomanic pathologising of support for the Taliban, we need to deconstruct it to see what it represented. For women in Swat, it was the promise of inclusion.

Insurgents everywhere target the state and its institutions, but the Taliban have openly taken responsibility for bomb blasts and suicide attacks leading to mass casualties among ordinary civilians in markets and mosques across the country. The current headcount of terrorism victims in Pakistan is estimated to be between 45,000 to 50,000 people. Each has a story of unspeakable anguish. And now we want to negotiate with the perpetrators. On what?

Peshawar, 2011: A music shop being restored after attack by Taliban. Photo: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

Peshawar, 2011: A music shop being restored after attack by Taliban. Photo: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

Nothing in Pakistan is black and white. The ANP contradictions — of the party with the highest number of the Taliban’s victims proposing peace talks with them — read in context warrant some sympathy. In private conversations, people across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa state their firm belief that the army both colludes with and protects as well as attacks the Taliban based on its calculus of expedience, and had it wanted it could have finished off the militants in the decade since the ‘war on terror’ began.

People lace this narrative with specific examples, such as the pitched battle Pir Samiullah fought against the Taliban in Matta. He had raised a force of 500 people after promises of state support but when he needed backup during five days of continued assault, official assistance never came. Not only were his supporters massacred, his dead body was exhumed and hung from a tree for four days and his village burned down. There are numerous such accounts of tribal lashkars and aman jirgas promised state protection and then abandoned.

If there is truth in the claim of the security apparatus’ double game, then it leaves the ANP in the untenable position of the frontline party with cadres routinely assassinated in a war it cannot win without state support, which it doubts it has, hence its push for reconciliation. If such claims are not true, then beyond Swat, the security apparatus has not done anything to warrant people’s confidence.

Public criminal prosecution of Taliban accused of brutalities would go far in restoring people’s trust in the system to deliver justice. Instead, peace talks will result in the imprisoned ones getting released.

No democratic dispensation can sustain high levels of violence against civilians. Without public support for operations, negotiations are the only alternative. A previous attempt at peace talks resulted in Sufi Muhammad declaring human rights, politicians, the constitution and democracy itself as against Islam. But is there public support for negotiations? In return for ceasefire, what is it that the Taliban are being offered?

The Taliban will be negotiating from a position of strength, and that in itself is an indictment of the army and the intelligence agencies and a spectacular failure of the ‘war on terror’. The Taliban have not been weakened enough for them to bargain for only clemency or amnesty, and will place demands for systemic change. And they have less legitimacy than even Tahirul Qadri to do so. Let’s hear that the constitutional guarantees will not be overridden, human rights will not be eroded, freedom of cultural and personal expression will be protected, there will be no further roll-back on freedoms of minorities and women’s concerns will be paramount, as a prerequisite to even heading to the negotiating table. Then see if they turn up.

These peace talks connect to what is unfolding across the border. It is simplistic optimism to assume that the warriors will either leave in an exodus or put down their guns and pick up their cropping tools once the Americans leave Afghanistan in 2014. The security establishment and seasoned politicians know that. The rest of the citizens better fasten their seatbelts.

The writer conducts research and analysis in the social and development sector. nazishbrohi.nb@gmail.com

One Response

  1. COMMENTS AT ALL PARTIES CONFERENCES TO BUILD THE CONSENCES ABOUT THE TALIBANS PHONAMENA.
    When we think to negotiate with the Taliban, it is hard to accept that we are thinking to talk about the scoundrels or unscrupulous rough murder peoples; they know nothing about the respect about humanity of the mankind. They are not only rascal scamp and blackguard of the dark ages. Other thing came to the mind if few peoples gathered in near future and give themselves whatever the name they choose for their group and make our lives are unsaved start killing our innocent women, children’s and normal citizens of country. Deprived to our children’s from the education and boomed our schools and colleges and create the terrifying environment for business, keep and make our structure of lives venerable and paralyze the economy of the country. Our agencies failed to handle them what we do next time start negotiation with them or start begging the peace from them. It is the tragic Saga of the nation which has claimed one of the Islamic nuclear power in this region. If we come to the activism of the Taliban in our country two gesture of thought come straightway in the mind either our law enforcement agencies want to keep them for the bargain point to the west for some reasons or they have no will to finish them might they believer because of unsuitable environment to fight within country or suppose has no capabilities to fight this type of gruella war before and they has the some sort of defeated thought which prevail we cannot keep fighting longer. Therefore law enforcement agencies decided to leave it for politicians.
    Our history about the APC is not having any remarkable effect of the domestic politics. Whenever politicians want to divert the attention of the people, they always do these dramatic gatherings so called APC. So many times they have come together, during last five years, sometime in camera, during the parliament secession even our securities agencies chiefs are given the all the details accordance with the pro-activeness of the terrorism, defiantly they come-up with some solutions, but nothing happens. Now the election is very near this government have only few breath away to complete his term. Recently Awami National party’s APC finished without any results. After this Fuzlullar Rahman called another APC, all participants gather and come-up at this interesting point to negotiations with the Taliban amazingly without any agenda.
    None of them raised the question for precondition to put down the weapon which they used against our innocent peoples. Going without putting any condition for negotiation with Taliban mean just like between two states. Showing this weakness from our leadership or us ultimately accepted the state within state of Taliban. If we mentally accepted the Taliban’s statutes then what type of negotiation we expect to engage with them, they are not accepting our authorities, law of the land, even our country’s sovereignty. Are we going to negotiate the settlement of the issue for their rules? Are we begging the peace from un-peaceful villains? Are we call the APC tell the Taliban to thrust and be stabbed hard with their weapons? What we expect from these notorious gangsters? We are completely confuse, our leadership using one word if we speak to India or use the other’s countries names those have no good relation with us, why not Taliban, further strongly mention they are our people. This is the way make own people fool. If we accept it these are our people but they are the criminals violating our law of the land, destroying the peace, creating the anarchy and spreading the dangerous ironical feeling of insurgencies toward the world, our image of get deem disturbed of the nation. We will not negotiation with the criminals and they been treated according to their guilt’s through the courts.
    When we do call for dialogue or negotiation within country other party must be the political or they do the work for the welfare of the country not the black sheep of the gangster type militants. If we do negotiation on the bases of nation then another partner must be the other countries, yes we can call the ACP to build the consensus to have the dialogue with any peculiar issue. This will make effects of our nation lives. But calling the APC to get the consensus for Taliban it means to demoralize our national status.
    If our authority wants to make any concession for these barbarians they must show their desire to peace first and show the acceptance of authorities, all those crimes their members committed before this formal request of peace, brought them up for justice, criminals must be punished, other members those are not involved any crimes they be respected like normal citizens. Taliban’s crime list is quite long. If there is no legal action against these black sheep and not put them on the trial without any mercy, and do the justices accordingly with their crimes. It means there is no public support is available for any negotiator or any representation of APC, to the Taliban. Negotiation with Taliban will not be brought forward positive result and not be successful for any stage. Our people not support this meaningless posture of goodwill. One thing we should keep in our mind after the departure of the NATO forces from this region if Afghanistan could not cope and not keep the liabilities of the peace, this will be the worst vicious region of the world. Pakistan has to be careful and alert from both side of boarders. Our country need to take certain measurements of our security first do not inferior the domestic politics of Afghanistan, let them they decide for their own future, we provide the assistance if they ask for it. Otherwise wait and watch policy is the best one for us. Try to secure our boarder as much as possible, need to build more posts at Eastern boarder put more restriction and intercept any movement of illegal infiltration.
    This article written by;
    Saeed Ahmed, Former Vice President of Urdu Science College.1976 to1977.
    Former Vice President of Atlas Groups of Companies Employees Union 1977 to 1983.
    Email: saroya_family@hotmail.com

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