New Age Islam
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Current Affairs ( 5 Jun 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Can the New Pakistan Government Hold Meaningful Dialogue with Taliban?



By Mujahid Hussain, New Age Islam

June 6, 2013

Nawaz Sharif government has taken the oath of office and is expected to win praise during the initial days because he has hinted at some steps that other Pakistani political parties did not think much of.

For example, Mian Nawaz Sharif wants to make the long neglected Balochistan feel that injustice will not be done to it anymore and its deprivation will be done away with. Nawaz Sharif wishes to take many such revolutionary steps in connection with other problems facing the country. For example, he wishes Pakistan to get rid of terrorism and sectarianism, ‘dwindling economy’ being his priority.

He also wants to improve the pathetic state of Karachi and he has already started getting positive messages from Karachi’s representative political party MQM. It does not mean that all the detractors of Mian Saheb including the adventurous institutions and opposition parties have been eliminated and he is in a position to do what he wishes. In fact it is a period of ‘lull before the storm’ when some are taking rest while the others are analysing the situation. Mian Nawaz Sharif should not be complacent and think that now no one will dare challenge his moves.

Problems are same as before and mischievous powers have not weakened. For example extremists are closely watching what foreign policy Nawaz Sharif is going to adopt? Does he have the ability to punish the US according to the wishes of the extremists? What will be his stance vis a vis Afghanistan? To what extent can he confront India? Above all, the local issues like the mischief’s of the power-addicted institutions and the growing strength of the extremists is very difficult for the Pakistan politics to tackle.

If on one hand Pakistan Tahreek e Insaf will have to walk on a two edged sword in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, on the other Mian Nawaz Sharif will have to use all his powers to control the genie of the multipronged extremism and communalism in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. Will the PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and PML (N) at the centre and other states be successful in bringing peace and stability?  If we take a close look at the previous attitude of both these parties ‘we will find that there is a lot of confusion.

At one point of time Mian Shahbaz Sharif had said that there was no difference between their strategy and that of Taliban. On the other hand Imran Khan and many other leaders of his party have said that they do not consider the ‘war on terror’ to be Pakistan’s war and that they had forced the war of others upon them.  This is exactly the stand of the right wing supporters of Taliban and the communal forces who have been telling Pakistan to withdraw its support to this war as Pakistan has lost its fifty thousand citizens in this war. Pakistan army’s stand is that it is their own war but no one is ready to accept that. For the first time in the history of Pakistan the army has declared internal threats more dangerous than the external ones.

Mian Nawaz Sharif belongs to the rightist wing of politics and now because of various political compulsions dozens of former terrorists and communal people are not only a part of his party but have also become parliamentarians. They have nothing but communalism and terrorism as their objectives. PML (N)’s stance regarding extremism and communalism in Pakistan is not different from that of the religious parties.

Because of his previous government’s experience, Nawaz Sharif wants to rein in Pakistan’s ISI and M I so that the past is not repeated whereas the majority of PML (N) members are in favour of army’s religious mind and other policies. Muslim League (N)’s stance towards the communal divide and sectarianism in the country is not clear as they have never issued any statement other than a word condemnation. As far as a condemnation is concerned even Ahl e Sunnat wal Jamaat, whose members themselves are part of all such killings and even campaign for this, issues a statement. It is very obvious then that no political party including PPP and Muslim League, wants to go against the militant religious parties and groups.

The possibility of conflict between PTI and army in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cannot be ruled out because the party in power will like to stop the operation against the terrorist organisations in the tribal belt whereas the army has declared Taliban as a misguided minority and the foreign aid to army is based on such agreements. Tehreek e Insaf will organise rallies against the drone attacks and will pressurise the central government to stop or to attack the drones entering Pakistani boundaries.

The mutual relations of the trio of the army, the Muslim League (N) and Tehreek e Insaf will decide the fate of the new governments and the media will play an important role in it. Taliban and communal groups have no identity other than terrorism. Hence it is not possible for them to present any other identity other than terrorism in the affected areas as the extremists have other businesses like kidnapping for ransom and drugs etc too. In such a situation any political party which has its national presence will never like to be identified with these anti social elements. And the terrorists who are an isolated lot will like to maintain their identity of isolation. This is how the situation will maintain its status quo and on the whole the law and order situation will continue to be critical.

It will be a fatal misunderstanding to think that in such a situation present political parties can make any key decision by ignoring the army and the international party involved in the region and no political party can afford this in the particular situation in Pakistan. Not only there will be severe differences among the political parties but also the unity inside the army will suffer. On the whole a new and more dangerous form of extremism will emerge.

Mujahid Hussain is Brussels Bureau Chief of New Age Islam.  He is author of nine books including the recently published book ‘Punjabi Taliban’. He has been writing for various newspapers as an investigative journalist for the last two decades. His writings cover a wide range of issues involving Pakistan. In recent years, local, regional and international affairs relating to terrorism and security have been the subject of his study.