Pakistan up against terror
Though Taliban’s militant agenda and the brutal means they have employed to advance it merited stern action by Islamabad, the difficulties of terrain and laxity of legislators let them shed the blood of innocent people for long.</em
By Riaz Missen
Government and opposition resolve to scrap decades old distinction between good and bad Taliban as nation burns in rage and protests over the massacre of 132 children at Army Public School Peshawar on December 16.
At a time military offensive to clear FATA off the local Taliban and their foreign associates was on the way, the Peshawar tragedy prompted Premier Nawaz Sharif to lift moratorium on the execution of the convicted terrorists ending the saga of jailbreaks and the prospects of any deal to release the hardheaded criminals.
Peshawar tragedy has pushed Pakistan into its final phase of conflict with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which right after its formation in December 2007, has denied the writ of the state in FATA and violated every norm of civility to execute its anarchist agenda.
Though Taliban's militant agenda and the brutal means they employed to advance it merited stern action by Islamabad, the difficulties of terrain and laxity of legislators let them shed the blood of innocent people for long.
Parliament could upgrade anti-terror law and military moved into the hub of terror, North Waziristan, only this year.
Though the previous government did a lot to restore the writ of the state in restive FATA and the nearby districts, the anti-terror bill rotted in a parliamentary committee and the Musharraf era policy to treat some Taliban as strategic assets continued.
Confusion in Islamabad only helped extremists to consolidate their position in FATA and expand their network across Pakistan to the extent that they could influence the results of last general elections whereby the PPP and ANP, openly opposing their agenda, could not campaign properly.
Besides the deep roots of the sectarian groups, understood to be the mentors of Taliban, in the media and state institutions, ethnonationalism can also be held responsible for Islamabad being soft at predominantly Pushtoon Taliban.
A major part of efforts by successive governments have been directed at the point to pitch good Taliban against the bad ones rather than subjecting the region under their control, to a full scale military assault.
Parliamentary parties unanimously backed the renaming of NWFP with Khyber-Pukhtoonkhawah through 18th Constitutional Amendment of 2010 to prevent militants exploit the ethnic sentiments of Pushtoon, who constitute the second officially recognized ethnolinguistic group in Pakistan.
That the Durand Line runs across Pukhtoons community has made decision-makers in Islamabad to take this fact into consideration while dealing with Afghanistan.
Whether it was the matter of hosting millions of refugees fleeing war or providing territory to train and equip youth for guerilla war against the Soviet forces Pakistan stood by the Pukhtoons of the other side of the divide,
Pakistan supported Taliban of Afghanistan to occupy two-third territory of their homeland in 1990s and it was only the might of the US that made Musharraf regime to abandon them after 9/11.
Even when the US-led coalition had overthrown Mullah Omar regime, Pakistan's backing of Hamid Karzai as the presidential candidate was also a continuation of the policy of, quoting General Musharraf, not abandoning Pukhtoons of the other side of the border.
Not strangely enough, Islamabad remained indecisive for long whether to take stern action against the militant outfits when they found safe havens in the border regions of Pakistan and, later, regrouped under the umbrella of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.
The Musharraf regime, which had accepted the role of 'frontline state' for Pakistan under international pressure, could not clear FATA off Taliban and their Al-Qaida collaborators partly due to India's amassing of its troops on eastern borders and mainly for the reason that Islamabad tended to differentiate between 'good' and 'bad' Taliban.
Given the fact that Pakistan's major ethnic groups stand divided among the neighboring countries, Islam has been projected by Islamabad as the common bond among them.
Ethnonational movements have been sternly dealt with by Islamabad, as the case of Bengal and Bloch insurgencies suggests, but the ones like TTP using Islam as a shield have been treated leniently.
Pakistan has undoubtedly got its society militarized due to an expanded network of militant Islamic organizations collecting funds and recruiting youth for jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir.
Islamabad is subjected to mounting international pressure, particularly, after September 11, to stop using religion as a means to advance political ends in its neighborhood.
Jandullah has disturbed Iran while the footprints of the militants seeking independence of Sinkiang have raised eyebrows in Beijing, the most trusted Islamabad's ally.
Pakistan has been publically denouncing terrorism in all its forms and manifestations since Musharraf era but no policy framework could be developed till the passage of anti-terror bill this year.
Even after Pakistan moves to develop a comprehensive anti-terror policy there is dearth of paradigm to eliminate distinction in 'ethnic' and 'religious' versions of militancy.
The very fact of its ethnic groups stand divided among its neighbors requires an unparalleled commitment by Pakistan to discourage primordial and divisive ideologies by officially endorsing pluralist vision of the society.
Of course, overhauling the Constitution is the need of the hour to fulfill the pledge of the founder of Pakistan to treat citizens equally rather regardless of their religious or ethno-linguistic identities.
For Pakistan to realize its potential of becoming a peaceful, stable and prosperous nation, political parties need to make the Quid's address to the 1st Constituent Assembly on 11th August as the Preamble of the Constitution.
Devolution of power from Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta down to divisions and districts is yet another obligation of the political leadership to involve the people in the process of building a peaceful and prosperous Pakistan.