Talks and agitation

The gap between what the government wants and what the people demand is widening at breakneck speed. The wild goose chase, also known as the peace talks with the militant Taliban, has seen it all: the government kowtowing and whimpering in fear whilst approaching the ‘negotiations’ table, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) continuously slaughtering innocent Pakistani citizens from cinemagoers to our jawans (young soldiers), cowardly double speak by the government’s negotiations committee, the beheading of 23 FC men by the Taliban, the army stepping in for surgical precision strikes, the brief flexing of administrative muscle by Nawaz Sharif to demonstrate feeble might in front of the Taliban, the militants announcing a temporary ceasefire and now a smug government team ready to hold “direct talks with the Taliban” after the formation of a new government committee. Meanwhile, the masses look on and wonder when their opinion will be sought in a matter that, ultimately, decides their fate. The government’s extension of more peace talks is not just disturbing, it is insulting after the degradation of those 23 FC men who were killed in the most inhumane way. It is a slap in the face of all of society to actually go one step further and offer ‘direct’ peace talks with these murderers, granting them even more legitimacy by sitting across from them, face-to-face at the same table. The government is, in effect, now granting the killers of Pakistan’s men, women and children, these barbarians in ‘holy’ garb, respectability when all they should be granting them is swift and sure death through affirmative action. This is a new low for Nawaz Sharif’s team and a new, darker chapter for Pakistan’s bloodied history.  
Chaudhry Nisar, the apparent spokesperson on negotiations development, said on Friday that the “majority” of the Taliban are not anti-Pakistan! One is actually stupefied by this remark and must ask the interior minister just what he thinks is pro-Pakistan: are those militants who deem the constitution, parliament and democratic process of this country un-Islamic the pro-Pakistani Taliban of which he speaks? The minister needs to clarify his stance and explain to the people who are deeply mistrustful of the Taliban just what defines being anti-Pakistani. 
Meanwhile, civil society has decided to band together and take matters into its own hands in Lahore on Thursday when, in a rare display of might, activists and even some political parties demonstrated in an anti-Taliban and anti-extremism rally that they had had enough of the militants. It is refreshing to see our people finally take charge and attempt the mammoth task of wrestling back authority over how to decide beating back the Taliban. By demonstrations such as this one, we can take centre-stage and make our voices heard, demanding that the farce of negotiations be done away with and determined action be taken. It seems as though it is up to civil and political society to nudge the misdirected government into a position of rationality. The political counter-narrative needs to be strong, not from a position of weakness with which we have been managing these so-called ‘talks’. The government, if not willing, has to be made to take the citizens along, including them in the course with which this dialogue process takes place. We are part of a democratic set up and if the citizens are agitating against the negotiations and Taliban ideology then this government must take such sentiments into account before deciding on how to proceed with the talks.  *

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Aaj Kal