“The devil loves nothing better than the  intolerance of men.”             –Lowell

The night riders of Islam, various groups of militants commonly defined as Taliban have shown their true colors by targeting senior military officials while talking of negotiations with the government of Pakistan. Some misguided elements both in the political set up and in the media instead of condemning this double speak and evil activity of the militants were still clamoring for negotiations with them. They have even gone to the extent of criticizing those “invisible” forces which they claim want to subvert the process of negotiations between the Taliban and the federal government. Pakistan has suffered immensely because of this confusion and it was time that some clarity emerged in the thinking in the power corridors of the country. This dithering has contributed to serious losses suffered not only by the jawans and officers of the Pakistan army but hundreds of policemen and civilians were also martyred by these so called night riders of Islam. After the passage of nearly a decade no visible or effective policy has been formulated by any government that would ensure that this menace of terrorism is handled in an effective manner.

While nobody wants a wholesale massacre of either the Taliban or collateral damage to the civil population of the country yet the time is drawing close when a swift decision is required to grapple with this menace. The Taliban have come to a point where they have the audacity to tell the government that they will have to meet with certain preconditions of the militants before negotiations can begin in real earnest. These conditions if accepted would amount to outright surrender and at the same time create an impression that all the sacrifices made by the Pakistani army and those civilians who laid down their lives have indeed gone in vain.

There is another element of uncertainty that is required to be addressed by the government and that is to pinpoint who is in real command of those forces that are responsible for creating unrest in various parts of this country. The government also needs to have a deeper look at the problem because there is a certain mindset in the country that requires to be reformed before peace and tranquility will return to Pakistan. To achieve this purpose it is absolutely essential that education and awareness in the proper perspective are made available to the people of these areas so that the brainwashing that has continued for years and years can be reversed. The government must understand that the issue is going to be a long-drawn-out affair and that any adhoc or quick-fix solutions will never provide an answer to this serious problem.

Today we find different shades of political opinion in this country on divergent lines that allows the Taliban to flourish. There is also the issue of financial support being provided to the militants by Pakistani citizens that must be plugged forthwith. The funds generated by kidnapping for ransom due to rampant corruption and inefficiency of the police establishment must be stopped. Otherwise, any amount of goodwill and negotiations by the government with the Taliban is bound to fail because they are expected to vigorously pursue their goals of establishing an Islami Caliphate according to their own brand of Islam.

With this backdrop the chief of the army staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani had to come out and declare in clear terms that the Pakistan army will not allow the terrorists to dictate any terms to the government. He emphasized that although peace must be given a chance through a political process, in case that failed to yield judicious results, the army had the capability and the resolve to provide the militants with a taste of their own medicine. The resolve of General Kayani has come at a time when the people of Pakistan are in dire need of some clarity and commitment from those who matter in the country.

If the process of talks is allowed to drag on indefinitely the country will end up on the losing side. If the Taliban again renege on any commitment they make with the government like the peace agreement that was signed between the government and Molvi Sufi Muhammad and Fazal ullah, the political leadership and the armed forces of the country must have a contingency plan ready to go whole hog. One hopes that in the weeks and days to come, visible and clear signs emerge that will provide strength, courage and hope to the beleaguered population of this country.

The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist.