ISLAMABAD: Time has come for the PTI and PML-N to either merge together or at least become coalition partners in a national government.
Reason: The two political parties, who were sworn enemies before the elections, seemed so unanimous on how this country should be run. Gone were the days when Imran talked about beating the tiger with his bat or Nawaz Sharif promised to sort out the burger kids.
Both agreed in the National Assembly that Pakistan should keep striving for a dialogue with Taliban even if the latter refuses to do so. The PML-N claimed and the PTI concurred that peace was about to materialise when the (evil-minded) Americans scuttled the process by deliberately droning out Hakimullah Mehsud. His posthumous status as a murderer or shaheed should not be discussed, as this would divide the nation.
The two parties competed with each other to appease the Taliban apologists and declared that peace with Taliban was not possible until the US drone strikes were stopped. Both sides were also unanimous that the Yanks should be sent a strong message – so that they know that we are not “beghairats.”
So how do we do it? Here the two sides differed minutely in strategy. Imran Khan was slightly hurt that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had promised to take up the drones issue with US President Obama but did not do so. A lady hawk in the PTI had wanted to simply attack the
US – we can’t tell how – but the ‘saner elements’ watered down the idea to forcibly stop the Nato supplies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. On Monday Imran whittled down the plan further to launch a simple rally on November 20. This, he declared, was not a declaration of war but a protest rally as “they did it in London against the Iraq invasion.” The clarification was perhaps prompted by the speculation that Islamabad could suspend the PTI government if the situation got out of hand.
Chaudhry Nisar agreed about the American conspiracy to scuttle the peace process but would not go as far as Imran in joining the protest. It makes sense because being the federal government Islamabad could not afford to get people on the streets against Washington – not when they need donor agencies and the US economic help. And Nato meant half of the civilised world, including the EU that recently allowed huge trade concessions to Pakistan.
Trust Nisar for weaving mystery around the “cloak and dagger” game that he encountered. “You have no idea what I am going through because I don’t like to brag,” he issued the understatement of the year while blaming the media for doubting his achievements. And here people are, he said, involved “in unnecessary debate about who is a shaheed and who is not.”
“Unnecessary” – excuse me! This created quite a stir in the Press Gallery. Nisar claimed to have the army support more than was necessary but clearly avoided supporting the army position against JI chief’s declaration about not considering army men fighting Taliban as Shaheeds. How does he expect the forces to fight Taliban if the government is not clear whether it’s a just war? – asked a colleague. This was quite a lapse.
Nisar gave a small hint about contemplating a timeframe in the quest for dialogue. But he gave no hope that the government had any idea if the terrorism issue would be resolved in the near future. “We have no magic solution,” he declared while saying that the pursuit of dialogue was still on but the environment was hardly conducive. The crux was: peace is not possible until the US drone strikes end.
Since the US does not profess to end its drone strikes, we can infer that both PTI and PML-N governments are not promising any chance of peace. Nor will they commit that the Taliban menace will end with the end of drone strikes. It is so convenient to blame it on the US and not deliver anything. Both the governments have failed to extract any reciprocity from Taliban in the last nine months since the last elections. Taliban have not only ignored their call for peace but have actually doubled terrorist attacks.
Even if we accept Nisar’s claims that he was close to a deal with Taliban we would like to know: what now? Somebody has to offer a way forward. Nisar definitely needs a grammar lesson: get out of past perfect and present tense and give us an active particle.
Obviously, both the parties have got the narrative divided. There was no mention of the thousands who lost their kith and kin at the hands of Taliban. Imran asked everybody to be on one page. By this he meant his page, which was another way of saying ‘my way or highway.’
Intriguingly, the PPP was all quite on this. In fact, the PPP backed out of its threat to boycott the Assembly proceeding if the Prime Minister did not turn up. This led our vets to think that, may be, the PPP was scared of all those corruption cases piled up against it. Aitzaz Ahsans and Raza Rabbanis can afford to be aggressive but Khursheed Shahs and Amin Fahims of this world cannot.
The sole voice of sanity was, again, the incorrigible Sheikh Rashid. He laughed at those who thought of fighting with the US. Believe me, he said, the US plans to retain some forces in Afghanistan and we can’t afford to fight it. “The dollar is linked with (Taliban) dialogue,” he enlightened us with his one-liners. “Let’s not live in the romantic world of Razia Butt novels; who do we think we are?” He believed there is no scope of any dialogue with Taliban after the ascension of Fazlullah as TTP chief as he is Pakistan’s sworn enemy supported by foreign agencies. His logic was simple: we can’t expect Taliban to be rational. Taliban got Afghanistan destroyed but did not hand over Osama Bin Laden. “We can’t go on that route”, he said before the anti-climax. “But I would still attend the PTI rally in Peshawar.” This was perhaps his compulsion, as he owes his seat to Imran Khan.
His parting shot was a classic Sheikh Rashid: “Please spare the poor shaheeds – as if they are waiting up there for us to clear their entry into heavens.”
November 12, 2013