By Iqbal Jafar
November 23, 2011
Marcus Tullius Cicero, the great Roman orator, statesman and writer, was also a lawyer. He once gave advice to young lawyers that holds good even after more than 2,000 years. His advice: if you have a good case, be brief and logical; if you have a weak case, be long-winded and try to confuse; and if you have no case at all, abuse the other party. The US case for the occupation of Afghanistan having passed through the first two states, has now entered the third.
When the US attacked Afghanistan in 2001, it made a short and simple statement of intent: since the Afghan government has refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, the man responsible for the tragedy of 9/11, the US has decided to invade Afghanistan to capture him and his band of terrorists. The world readily accepted the formulation. Years later and after much bloodshed and destruction, the US was still trying to ferret out Osama and al Qaeda. This made things rather confusing. Cicero would have approved of the dialogue now emerging: be long-winded and try to confuse.
That phase, too, has passed. Now, with Osama is dead and al Qaeda weakened and hardly operational, the US is still in Afghanistan and is likely to remain there even after 2014. The time has come, therefore, to ‘abuse the other party’, for this is the third state of validity. For that purpose, the US administration appears to have decided to nominate Pakistan as the ‘other party’. Having been so nominated, Pakistan has been accused, humiliated and threatened by the Americans as the new rogue state. This is likely to continue till Pakistan signs a confession and begs for mercy.
What do we need to do in this situation? To begin with, we should distinguish between the two types of militants who are known as Taliban: the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban. They may share common sectarian beliefs and prejudices, but they have different objectives.
The Afghan Taliban, unlike al Qaeda, are fighting only those who occupy their lands, and those who collaborate with them in Afghanistan. Since they fight only inside Afghanistan and against those who occupy it, they cannot be called terrorists in the ordinary sense of the word. They do, however, resort to terror as a weapon to cause ‘shock and awe’ (a term coined by former defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to describe US tactics in Iraq) in the course of their struggle against foreign occupation.
So far, the Afghan Taliban have avoided causing violence in Pakistan and this policy has been reiterated by Mullah Omer himself, at least twice. To go after them here in Pakistan at US prodding would turn Pakistan and Afghanistan into a single battlefield with grave consequences for the whole region. Pakistan can, however, be a bridge between the US and the Afghan Taliban who, together with the Afghan people, have paid far too much and far too long for the disaster of 9/11, though they had nothing to do with it.
The Pakistani Taliban and their numerous affiliates, on the other hand, have different national, regional and even local agendas. They do, however, have a common feature: all of them are in violent conflict, either with the state itself or with different sections of society for sectarian reasons and wish to impose their rule and their particular brand of Sharia by any and all means, even criminal means such as murder, kidnapping and bank robbery. The war against them is, therefore, our war and a just war. These are the basic truths that the world, especially the American people, should understand and accept.
Source: The Express Tribune, Lahore