The comfort zone called ‘peace talks’


It seems that the government is not in a mood to take any serious decision on terrorism that has wrought havoc in the country. After every round of condemnation and negotiations with the stakeholders about terrorism, the government returns to its comfort zone, and decides to give dialogue yet another chance to bring the ‘bad boys’ back into the arms of the motherly state. So much is the stress on negotiation that the feel of it being genuine and a policy instrument has already evaporated. On the surface its looks like the government is following a policy of evasion. The state is under threat. The enemy the country is facing has acquired, because of our consistent negligence, alarming strength and nerve to wage a calculated war against the security forces and the people. They refuse to accept the constitution. Their respect for the law of the land is missing, yet the government wants ‘everyone’s’ support to start a military operation against them. There comes a time in the life of nations when states go ahead with a unilateral decision to eliminate threats to their existence. But our prime minister (PM) wants a complete consensus before he could even consider that the state is under threat. How many more people, soldiers, police and children should be killed in bomb blasts or in target killing before the PM realises that the country is seriously in trouble. How many mosques and churches will be wiped out before the government puts its finger on the pulse of the problem? And how many Shias should die before we get the feel that the country is being pushed in a deliberate direction —- so-called Wahabi Islam. And now the PM has announced a four member committee to negotiate with the Taliban. Apparently, the government has now attempted once again to kickstart the dialogue process and the first step on that arduous if not impossible journey has been taken by forming the committee. It is a different matter that the members of the committee, two of them journalists, one a bureaucrat and the other an ex-ISI officer, have a natural leaning towards the Taliban. This committee will operate as a mediating body between the government and the Taliban. The question, however, remains what it is that the government wants to talk to the militants about? The ambiguity is still not clear. The committee will be supervised by the interior minister and closely monitored by the PM. 
On the other hand almost all the parties in parliament, with the exception of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf and the religious parties, have condemned the stubborn clinging to the option of talks in the face of the facts and ground realities. Bilawal Bhutto has argued that talks are usually held from a position of strength. Unless Pakistan acquires that position by first crushing the power of the militants, no amount of talks will make any difference. The policy of appeasement, according to Bilawal Bhutto, has emboldened the militants. They are killing our people left right and centre, and we want to educate them on how to behave with the state. The policy of talks has failed and it would fail again. This is not an intellectual assumption. It is history speaking through the trust deficit built up so far by the Talbian’s backing out from their promises of maintaining peace time and again. 
Pakistan is in a state of war. Everyone in the government and in the opposition agrees on this reality. We are being killed, our infrastructure, our economy and our social lives are being destroyed, while the state sits, hands folded, requesting the opposing force to come to the negotiation table. Does it make sense? All of a sudden the mullah community has emerged with their long drawn out statements to give peace a chance. Is it the heat of the impending operation in North Waziristan (NW) that has geared them up for this sudden activism? Should it be taken as a measure of success? This operation should be carried forward and taken to its logical conclusion. It is not only NW, it is Karachi, Punjab and Balochistan as well that require a clean up. As the PM himself has said in his meeting with the Chief of Army Staff, we are facing a cancer. Anyone knowing the anatomy of cancer should know about its ability to spread and become fatal unless treated in time.   *

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