New Age Islam Edit Desk
February 13, 2013
The recent mild rejection of Taliban peace dialogue offer by the Pakistan government has once again put the Pakistan government and the media in poor light. The Taliban are responsible for the killing of thousands of innocent people among Shia and other minorities including common people, apart from members of assembly and ministers of the Pakistan government. The outfit is banned in Pakistan. It was expected that the Pakistan government would reject the offer out rightly. Instead, they demonstrated mildness in rejecting it as if they only rejected it half-heartedly. The reason for this assumption is the statement of Pakistan’s home minister, Rahman Malik in the last week of January in which he reportedly said that the Taliban was not involved in the sectarian violence, target killings and terrorist attacks in Karachi. This shows that Pakistan’s leaders are non-committal towards reining in the Taliban despite the fact that they have been receiving billions of dollars from the US, the UK and other European countries on the pretext of fighting terrorist organisations like the Taliban in the country.
The Human Rights Watch Report 2013 shows that the situation of Pakistan in terms of rights violations and terrorist activities has only worsened as the incidents of terrorist activities have increased manifold during the last decade. Only during the last year, the Taliban killed more than 325 people from the Shia sect apart from attacking Malala and destroying hundreds of schools in Swat and other parts of Pakistan. They have also strengthened their position in Sindh, particularly its capital Karachi. In January they gunned down a member of assembly Manzar Imam along with his bodyguards.
One of the reasons for the growing power and clout of the Taliban in Pakistan is the total surrender of the government agencies and the Pakistani media before the Taliban. Most of the newspapers and the TV channels have taken a soft stand against Taliban for fear of life or loss of business. Urdu newspapers, in particular, have sold out their dignity and freedom to the Taliban and some of the columnists write like they are their spokesmen of Taliban. When the official Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan offered dialogue with the Pakistan government that they call the government of Kafirs, many learned columnists of Urdu newspapers jumped off to elaborate the merits of such an offer and the benefits Pakistan will reap by accepting their offer. Though it has been more than a month for this offer, Urdu columnists have not stopped writing on the ‘meaningful dialogue’ offer suggesting in a subtle language that the government should go ahead and talk to them even if the Taliban do not agree to lay down arms first.
When after the attack on Malala, there were worldwide protests and demands within the country to crackdown on the Taliban, Maulana Fazl ur Rehman and some other agents of the Taliban warned the government against such a move stopping the government from going ahead with the operation.
Therefore, the Taliban problem has been persisting in Pakistan because of a lack of consensus among its polity, media and among the religious circles. Some media personalities have had secret rapport not only with the Taliban but also with the leaders of Al Qaida. Nawaz Sharif reportedly met late Osama Bin Laden five times. One senior journalist of Pakistan also interviewed Laden.
All this makes it clear that the media has been Talibanised in Pakistan and so any move by the Pakistan government against the Taliban interests will be readily criticised by the sections of media in a perfidious manner.
It is not that such strong anti-government forces do not exist in Pakistan’s neighbouring countries. Most of the Asian and South Asian countries have been grappling with rebellious armed groups. For Example, Sri Lanka had to face stiff resistance from the powerful LTTE which killed thousands of civilians and some of the powerful ministers and prominent personalities of the country apart from damaging an eye of the late president Chandrika Kumaratunge and killing the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in a suicide attack. They had even captured a small area of Sri Lanka and formed their own government. From its birth in 1983 to their destruction in 2009, they had posed a serious threat to the country. However, the determination and a concerted effort of the government won them the day. The LTTE had adopted the same policy of guerrilla warfare and suicide bombings as Taliban have been doing.
A similar challenge has been put to Indian government by the Maoist Naxalites. They have influence in over 150 districts of the country. They have also killed thousands of civilians and security personnel in the last few years. Though they do not engage in suicide attacks, they have adopted the policy of guerrilla warfare and ideological struggle gaining the support of the intellectuals, activists, writers and journalists of India. Arundhati Roy and Mahasweta Devi and Bengali singer and TMC MLA from Bengal are among the prominent supporters of the Naxals. Though the Naxals do not recognise the government and have killed more people than the terrorists, India has succeeded in containing the growth of this outlawed outfit because the media and the general masses do not submit to them or subscribe to their ideology. Last year, after Mamata Banerjee became the chief minister of Bengal, the powerful head of the Maoists outfit Ramji was killed by the police. It is to be noted that the famous Bengali singer and currently TMC MLA, Kabir Suman had even composed a song eulogising the slain Maoist leader Ramji in Bengal. This was mentioned to show that it is not that the naxals or Maoists did not have supporters and sympathisers among the intellectuals and writers of India. However, it is important that their personal support or sympathy did not weaken the government’s resolve to deal with the naxals with an iron hand.
Bangladesh is also one of the countries that had the terrorist and naxal problem. During Khaleda Zia-led BNP- Jamaat Islami alliance government, the country saw the growth of terrorist organisations like Huji, Lashkar-e-Taiba, JMB and the emergence of terrorists like Bangla Bhai. During the period between 2000 and 2008, the country went through the worst phase of terrorism. There was even a terrorist attack on the public meeting of Shaikh Hasina in which some of her powerful leaders and workers were killed. Though she survived, her hearing faculty was affected. However, soon after coming to power, Sheikh Hasina dealt with the terrorists with an iron hand with the help of India and cracked down on all the radical elements in the country. It is not that the Jamaat Islami which had been hand in glove with the terrorists of Pakistan did not make a hue and cry but she successfully tackled all such radical elements and the so-called mullahs who accused her of turning Bangladesh into an atheistic country to please India. She handed over some terrorists of ULFA to India. They had been carrying out terrorist activities against India with the help of ISI of Pakistan. In return, India extended all support with intelligence gathering and financial aid and promised to provide help in fighting terror whenever required. So, her sincere efforts finally bore fruit and today Bangladesh is living in peace without any incident of any major terrorist activity within the last two years.
Therefore, if Pakistan also wants to sincerely root out terrorism especially the Taliban, it is not a difficult task given the financial support and technical knowhow they get from the US and other European countries and more importantly given the fact that they are a nuclear country unlike Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. If Sri Lanka and Bangladesh can fight and root out terrorism, why can’t Pakistan? India will not hesitate to extend its help to Pakistan in its endeavour to fight terrorism on its land as it extended support to Bangladesh to make the region a peaceful and terror free zone. In the end, it is Pakistan that has to take the call.