“Taliban attack Pakistan in retaliation to the drone attacks in Fata. In order to bring permanent peace in Pakistan the drone strikes must be stopped”. This is the mantra we have been hearing in the fiery speeches delivered by Imran Khan in the streets of Pakistan. His narrative is now taken for granted by many people in Pakistan; and the national discourse around the menace of militancy and terrorism has squeezed to have one single ‘cause’, the drone attacks.
Imran Khan’s yearning for peace has no adversary; and there should be none but his understanding of the whole issue of terrorism has many flaws. It seems as if Imran Khan is beating about the bush.
Imran Khan’s narrative that Taliban kill innocent citizens of Pakistan and the security personnel trough suicide bombers, target killings and remote control blasts in retaliation of the drone attacks conducted by US forces seems too naïve to buy. Imran Khan never goes back to the history of terrorism in Pakistan. He also sees terrorism in Pakistan in isolation. He even goes to the extent that terrorism does not stop in Pakistan because of the military operations against the militants. He evades even mentioning the Pakistani military arrangement of grooming terrorists as proxies to be used for the ‘security of the country’.
It appears as if his hostile politics on drone attacks is just a maneuver to save his own political party from militants. If he were sincere he would have also spoken up against the powerful forces that have nourished terrorism in the past, and as some suggest, have not given up the practice even today despite the loss of over 5,000 security personnel and some top brass officials.
Researchers say the drone attacks began in 2004 while terrorism in Pakistan began much earlier. Terrorism in Pakistan began with the first use of citizens against India in Kashmir and later against the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The first call to the tribesmen to fight against Indian forces in Kashmir in the name of Jihad and the tribesmen’s blind eagerness to do so showed Pakistani military the way to design a policy which allowed the military establishment to groom, nourish and train private armies. They carried out the same practice against their own countrymen in the former East Pakistan where loyalist extremists under the banner of organizations like Al-Badar and Al-Shams were let loose at Bengalis. The ghosts of their past still haunt our ruling elite as recently the parliament passed a resolution condemning the execution of Mollah Qadir under war crimes.
When the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan the Pakistan military again turned to the tribesmen and easily convinced them and their brothers in Afghanistan to fight Jihad with the support of American dollars.
I remember that in my first ever visit to the University Town in Peshawar in early 90s I asked my host the address of his office. He told it was near the Taliban Markaz. This ‘Markaz’ was being used to enlist Madrassha students in Pakistan, to train them and then to send them to Afghanistan. These young men were sent to Afghanistan apparently to bring peace after having tested the Mujahedeen government there. The rise of Taliban in Afghanistan had the full support of Pakistan and these men under the name of Taliban were none but puppets of Pakistan. We in Pakistan curse the USA as an imperial power but forget the skeleton in our cupboard. Given our role in East Pakistan and Afghanistan, what is our credibility when we blame everything on other imperialist powers?
In Malakand Division especially in Swat, Maulana Sufi Muhammad who used to be a local leader of Jamaat Islami founded the terrorist organization Tanzeem-e-Nifaaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) in early 90s when there were no drone attacks. The phenomenon of Swat Taliban was merely an extension of the TNSM.
Pakistan has a bloody history of sectarian cleansing. And now the Pakistan Taliban have taken this war among the warring sects to the extreme. This war has its roots in the security policy which has supported the ‘High Church’, as senior analyst Khaled Ahmad puts it. This policy is based on a warring and purging ideology which was, and is still, spreading wide under the auspice of religious political parties such as JI and JUI, and the apolitical missionary movement such as Tableeghi Jamaat. Many of our rulers and generals are also members of Tableeghi Jamaat.
Imran Khan needs to focus and hit the real causes of terrorism if he really means peace otherwise mere beating about the bush may save him and his party but will never bring peace, while playing the terrorists card will have dire consequences for the future of Pakistan. Being a new hope for change and popular among many youth, Imran Khan must come to the point. Presently he does not lead the youth but confuse them further.
Zubair Torwali, a rights activist, researcher based in Bahrain, Swat where he also leads IBT an independent organization for the rights, education and environment for the marginalized communities. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org