While the TTP cease-fire holds and may be extended, the terrorist attacks continue.
It is one thing to ask the Taliban to take notice of such attacks and to use its clout to halt such activities, but what about the responsibility of the state? It must take the liability of dealing with these troublemakers. What are the intelligence outfits for; more than two dozen of them? Surely if they do their job properly, they can track these people and provide timely information to the security agencies to seek to eliminate them. (Amazing indeed, as nobody knew that Osama Bin Ladin was living in Abbottabad!)
The new internal security policy inter-alia aims at pooling the resources of twenty six intelligence organizations. There will be a National Intelligence Directorate to coordinate the working of various agencies including a wing of the ISI “dealing with issues relating to counter-terrorism.” (This appears to indicate that the high command of the ISI will remain outside the jurisdiction of the NID.) It is important that this national directorate is set up without delay and starts producing results by providing much needed information to the security organizations.
In a meeting attended by the COAS, all four Chief Ministers and the Interior Minister, the PM also approved the setting up of trained and well-equipped Rapid Response Forces at the centre and the provinces. Nawaz also asked the provincial governments to take advantage of the new counter-terrorism legal framework including the PPO and to work hard to eliminate terrorism.
No doubt the government is serious about dialogue with the Taliban. Time is of the essence and as Imran Khan keeps reminding us, the anti-talks lobby is actively working to ensure that the dialogue fails and a military operation is launched.
While the Taliban have already conceded the supremacy of the Constitution of Pakistan and opted for a temporary cease-fire, can the government afford to withdraw the military from FATA agencies? As for the release of prisoners from both sides, the matter can be negotiated.
The anti-dialogue lobby keeps warning the government that the Taliban are seeking breathing space by engaging the government in talks for some time so that they can reorganize their resources and strategies to pursue their ambitious goal of establishing a state of their own. It is therefore imperative that the process is speeded up.
At the same time, the government should come up with a plan to reconstruct an administrative setup for FATA along with a two-year development programme. Further, steps should be taken to institute a local government system which involves people and provides opportunities to them to manage their own affairs. And in due course, say after 5 or 6 years, the tribal areas should become an integral part of the KPK province. Yet another essential task relates to the welfare and rehabilitation of internally displaced families. Linked to these desirable initiatives is the need for sending Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan. They are an economic burden on the country and have adversely affected social conditions in KPK and many other places. They also provide a recruitment source to the anti-Pakistan groups and hostile foreign agents. It would be relevant here to endorse the observations of Mr. Ayaz Wazir, a former ambassador of Pakistan who hails from the tribal areas. He wrote in a recent article published in a national daily, “We have to give to the people of FATA what they have been denied for ages—a feeling of belonging. They have to be made stakeholders in all matters concerning them. This is the crux of the matter. The people want peace and will not hesitate to render un-matched sacrifices once convinced that the government means what it says and will treat them with respect and dignity. We have wasted ten precious years in fighting a war, and that too on our own soil.”
One or two other recent developments call for comments. One is the somewhat mysterious gifting of $1.5 billion to Pakistan by Saudi Arabia and the linked story of Pakistan toeing the Saudi line in Syria. While Sartaj Aziz and Ishaq Dar have been at pains to deny any such involvement, a lingering sense of disbelief persists. How will Mr. Sartaj Aziz explain the mention of a “transitional” government in Syria in the joint communiqué issued after the visit of the Saudi crown prince?
The recent recommendations of the Council of Islamic Ideology with regard to second marriage without permission of the first wife and the legal age for the marriage of girls, have caused an uproar. While these Council findings are not binding on the government and at best may be debated in Parliament, there is a definite need for reviewing the terms of reference of the Council. It would be advisable to reconstitute it, bringing in moderate Islamic scholars, civil society representatives and one or two legal luminaries. Pakistan is already known for extremism and it will only be appropriate if we march with the times while subscribing to Islamic principles. There is a need for Ijtihad, as eloquently advocated by Allama Iqbal.
In fact the whole question of interpreting Islam in these modern times merits serious government attention. Controversial injunctions and precedents should be thoroughly examined, researched and restated in clear terms. In this connection organizations such as the International Islamic University, Iqbal Academy, the Institute of Islamic Culture and even the reconstituted council of Islamic Ideology, should undertake in-depth research on such crucial matters as the place and rights of women, the question of Riba, role of minorities and Islamic punishments. Their research findings and recommendations should then be debated in the National Assembly and Senate with a view to arriving at a national consensus.
Such exercises need to be taken in hand expeditiously so that Pakistan’s youth in an era of globalization and proliferating channels of quick communication and the electronic media, have the benefit of a reasoned discourse on matters which affect their lives.
n The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and a freelance political and international relations analyst.