LAHORE - The decisions taken by Monday’s All Parties Conference in Islamabad are important, but it is hard to say at this stage whether the targets set by the participants will be achieved in the near future.

The two most important decisions are: Holding talks with the Taliban, and considering the possibility of taking the drone attacks issue to the United Nations.

If the talks start, the government will want the Taliban to desist from carrying out terrorist activities and, instead, work within the limits of the Constitution of Pakistan.

The Taliban have not spelled out their demands so far, but the man known as the father of the militia says that his boys want Islamisation of the political system and the government delinking itself from the ongoing war on terror. To convince the Taliban that the government really wants to come out of the ‘US’ war, Maulana Samiul Haq said while talking to this newspaper, the intruding drones should be shot down.

Apparently, both sides are poles apart and it will be a miracle if the gap is bridged.

Under the Constitution of Pakistan, there can be no law repugnant to Quran and Sunnah. This means whatever is being practised at present is ‘not’ in conflict with the Islamic provisions. And if there is still anything, the government is duty-bound to Islamise it through a procedure provided for the purpose.

The Taliban can discuss their reservations about the political system at the talks, whenever they are held. However, there is little possibility of the government agreeing to introduce a system given by the Taliban in Afghanistan during the 1996-2001 rule of Mullah Muhammad Omar. The existing Pakistani system is acceptable even to the leaders like Maulana Samiul Haq and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who are strong advocates of the Taliban. If they can work under the existing system, there is no reason why the same should not be acceptable to the Taliban.

As for the demand that Pakistan should delink itself from the ongoing ‘US’ war on terror, the Taliban should bear in mind that the government says at present it is Pakistan’s war, though at the outset it was America’s. And whether the Taliban like it or not, there is no likelihood of the government deciding to shoot down the drones because such a step might land Pakistan into a difficult situation.

Many political parties have consistently been reviling former president Pervez Musharraf for capitulating to the US after 9/11. They allege that the ‘commando’ simply surrendered when a top US official phoned him to tell “You are with us or you are against us”.

Musharraf did what in his opinion was in Pakistan’s best interest. He knew that the US could unleash hell on Pakistan in case it did not cooperate. If he was wrong, as many insist, leaders of about a dozen parties who attended the APC should have taken a tough stand on the issue of drones. They should have decided to shoot down the drones, no matter what the consequences.

But the request by the APC participants that the government consider the possibility of taking the drones issue to the United Nations has only exposed how spineless they are. This shows they also fear the adverse consequences of such a retaliatory move, although the situation at present has just no comparison with the one immediately after 9/11. And if leaders of all important parties could not take such a decision collectively, how Gen Musharraf could be expected to lock horns with the United States at a time when no political party was with him and America’s prestige as an impenetrable superpower had been dented by attacks on the World Trade Center.

Pakistan cannot expect the UN will ever stop the US from carrying out drone attacks in its tribal areas. The world body runs on US funding and will never take any decision against its financier. So, the drones are likely to go on as before – and Pakistan will continue to call them counter-productive and violative of its sovereignty.

Despite all this, Pakistan needs peace. Unless peace is restored across the country, there will be no economic progress. Foreign investment has already gone down and nationals of a number of foreign countries have been advised by their governments to avoid visiting Pakistan unless absolutely unavoidable. Most of the state institutions are in a state of crisis.

It is a test of the PML-N government how it steers the country out of the prevailing difficult situation. And now that the army says it will follow any policy devised by the government, the responsibility of the failure will be the political leadership’s.