July Issue 2008

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 16 years ago

After publicly stating that the Taliban were knocking at the doors of the NWFP and that the government needed to move fast to stop Peshawar from falling into their hands, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman is now expressing displeasure at the Gillani-sanctioned army operation in the region.

Likewise, ANP leader Afrasiab Khattak, who sounded disgruntled with the centre for its inaction against the creeping Talibanisation in the Frontier, is now distancing himself from the army action. Meanwhile, the PML-N, in true PML-N tradition, is professing ignorance about the operation (It’s Kargil all over again?).

While the country is being consumed by the raging fires of intolerance and barbarism, bit by bit, leaders of the fractious coalition are busy playing their own games or playing to the gallery. To what end?

Extortion, kidnappings for ransom, burning of girls’ schools, video parlours and barbers’ shops and, worst of all, gruesome tortures and beheadings — the situation is grave, the signs ominous.

The writ of the state is being challenged with impunity at every level, and yet our honourable leaders continue to live in a state of denial. The ANP maintains that the peace deals in Swat are working. If that is indeed the case, why have the workers and family members of ANP’s coalition partner, the PPP, been killed? Why have 15 girls’ schools in the area been torched? Is the ANP, reputedly a progressive liberal party, at one with the Taliban on the issue of beheading and female education? Is the ANP willing to surrender basic freedoms to the Taliban and keel over, simply to keep the peace — or save its neck?

Also, how does one explain the savage butchering of 28 peace brokers from the government-backed Jandola peace committee in Tank, if peace was, indeed, a goal worth pursuing in the militants’ scheme of things?

Whether the ANP, the JUI-F and the PML-N accept it or not, terrorism, fanaticism and extremism have spread their ugly tentacles through the length and breadth of the country and threaten to destroy the socio-economic fabric of the nation.

To continue to demand that gun-toting, throat-slitting mafias be handled with kid gloves while they ride roughshod over the country, amounts to naivety. And to insist that the law enforcement personnel are fighting the US war on terrorism even as they take on this lawless brigade which is continuously challenging the state and beheading its own people, amounts to closing your eyes and mind to the realities on the ground.

While it is true that military solutions are not the final answer and, at the end of the day, you have to look for political solutions, it is also true that you have to establish the writ of the state in order to negotiate from a position of strength.

Incidentally, if the PML-N, or even the Jamaat-i-Islami, can use its influence to persuade the Taliban to lay down their arms, stop extorting money, stop beheading people and burning down girls’ schools, let them take the lead. If not, let them hold their tongues and cooperate with the coalition. Working at cross-purposes will only serve the cause of the militants. If the politicians are looking to make political gains for themselves in any future election or dispensation, they should remember that once the mantle is passed on to the Taliban, even they will be left out in the cold.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.