Karachi and Peshawar have remained in the grip of deaths and explosions in the past week, despite the fact that dialogue for peace is taking place between the TTP and the government. The fact remains that nobody selected by the government really has a representative position just as those nominated by the Taliban as part of the relay race do not either. That is a separate debate (and we will not go that way because it will only lead us up a blind alley with no answers). The guys enjoying centre stage and the entire spotlight continue to paint an overly rosy picture of the possible outcome, because it really is looking rosy for those on the other side of these demented talks. The unabated killings of innocent citizens and security personnel tell another story and do not leave any room for hope or peace for even the most gullible among us.

Why oh why are we even talking about the imposition of sharia in a country where it is already law that there will be no law repugnant to it and where the bulk of the population, Muslim by faith, practices its religion freely. The cleric from Lal Masjid, in his capacity as one of the TTP nominees to represent them, is on all channels rubbishing our constitution and brings back the memory of the horrific times when he and his fully draped-in-black ninjas would resort to strange vigilante theatrics, while residing in the heart of the capital. They wanted to impose their version of the sharia by force. They seemed just as huge an aberration then like the TTP reps putting forward the demands of the TTP seem now. It’s a replay while we wait and watch with a definite ‘bin there done that’ expression. It is so silly to have the basics about the country questioned in this manner by those who ought not to have the space for questioning.

We have also been informed that both Mulla Umar and Fazlullah are very capable of leading Pakistan as its leaders. The cat is thus out of the bag and the ultimate aim of the TTP is there on the table, for all to see. No hedging or hawing – power to control this land and its people. There is also someone else among their hierarchy with the misleading name of Sajna-which translates to roughly darling or adored one, (it reminds me of the song ‘sajna hai mujey sajna kai liye, but that’s an aside!) Whatever their names none of them will or can be allowed to lead us.

As Mohammad Malik pointed out that peace is not in the interest of TTP and we had better wake up to the fact. If it happens it takes away everything from them including their nuisance value, their importance, their raison d etre and their jihad. So why on earth would they consider it seriously? They have just been able to buy some valuable time with these talks. It is a special year in which we have to think about the region as the situation around us evolves. Our answers have to be found within our own sensibilities. Some notice has to be taken of the TTP message sent out to the peaceful Kalaash people living in Chitral as well as the Ismailis living there. They have warned the Kalaash to convert to Islam or face death and have also announced an armed struggle against the Ismaili Muslims in Chitral. The Ismailis are one of the most peaceful and non-violent community living in Pakistan. Their spiritual leader was the founding father of the All India Muslim League as well as its first president. It is also a recorded fact that when the national exchequer had no money after independence it was the Aga Khan who helped to arrange the money.

The very foundations of the country are being quizzed about and the unfair treatment of the state to the people at large or the have-nots for all these years seems to have added to the mess. If the TTP finds support in some corners it is for this reason alone. There are too many who have been ignored for too long with things as they are – good for only the elite. The present spiritual leader of the Ismailis, Prince Karim Aga Khan, has helped many charity organizations around the world and has done some wonderful work for the poor and needy irrespective of caste or community. He is also known for funding some brilliant restoration projects around the world. At a personal level, if there is anyone I would willingly hand over the country to, to restore and mend, it would be to Prince Karim Aga Khan.

Post Script: A most interesting thing happened in the last week. A private citizen Naeem Sadiq, a right-to information activist, filed an appeal to the President Mamnoon Hussain against the Presidency – for not providing him the information he sought under a presidential ordinance inquiring about the expenses on hajj for the President and members of his family and in which members of his staff accompanied the entourage as well. There has obviously been no response from the Presidency to date. Even as most things remain the same, these small pockets of resistance do signify that there is some light at the end of the tunnel – and it comes only from the unelected, ordinary citizens of this country.

The writer is a public relations and  event management professional  based in Islamabad.


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