ISLAMABAD: The debate on the aftermath of the latest drone strike seemed so shallow, if not outright sham. One politician after another stood up to enlighten us about the sorry state of affairs. As if the people who have suffered 50,000 deaths did not know about it.
And when it comes to waxing eloquence, it’s difficult to beat Maulana Fazlur Rehman. The godfather of Taliban was found lecturing us on how to control, well, Taliban. Obviously, the menace was out of his control now. He drew a scary picture about the country losing its writ in Fata. “It’s no longer about the government; it’s about the state now,” he said warning everybody that this was how “geography of nations gets changed.” The gist was: Punjabis have no idea what Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is going through.
It was difficult to tell whether he was talking about the rulers or the people of Punjab. The idea, it seemed, was not to eradicate the problem in other places but to extend the evil to Punjab. Perhaps the wish will materialise soon considering the hordes of, Alhamdulillah, Punjabi Taliban reaching the tribal areas and the Punjab government’s absolute disregard to the ever-increasing madrassahs.
The missing ingredient in Maulana’s harangue was the way forward.
As everybody else, the Maulana too skipped the solution part. It seemed convenient to put all eggs in the government basket. He too wanted the government to go ahead and negotiate peace with Taliban.
The issue was: Taliban did not seem interested in peace. So far, it was a one-way traffic where the only interested party was the government. We wanted to know about the plan B: what if the Taliban did not come to the peace table; how long will the wait go on? What was the way forward after seven months and, to quote official figures, 778 dead from terrorist attacks since the new government arrived.
The more disturbing revelation was that the government was now unsure if Taliban would be interested to talk after the killing of Hakeemullah Mehsud. This meant the government was not willing to do what the governments are supposed to do, give hope; hope that the problem will be resolved at some stage. Sheikh Rasheed insisted that the government did not have a Plan A – what to talk of Plan B.
He dared Chaudhary Nisar to share the names of his three-member negotiating team. “I challenge that the negotiating team could not have crossed the settled areas of Bannu or Dera Ismail Khan, let alone make it to North Waziristan.
Basically, he shared the same doubts that our Press Gallery gurus had expressed earlier about Chaudhary Nisar’s bravado – that he was close to a breakthrough with Taliban. Nisar had tried to give the impression that the drone strike had scuttled his peace initiative.
Well, it will require much more to convince the incorrigible Sheikh of Lal Haveli.
“It’s a 3-D problem: Dialogue, Drones and Dollars,” said the king of one-liners. “It’s beyond the capacity of this government, which can’t even put its act together; Fazlur Rehman will know the rate of dollar but I don’t expect Ishaq Dar to know it.”
The Sheikh continued with his peculiar diagnosis, saying that the government had a problem of “line and length. Nisar says one thing, Sanaullah another and Pervaiz Rasheed picks an altogether different frequency.”
The overriding impression was that the parliamentarians were generally scared to talk against Taliban. It was convenient to blame the Americans and their drone strikes but it needed guts to talk against Taliban. Even the PPP was found dilly-dallying around the issue. Khursheed Shah did not go beyond asking the government to share its plan with it.
The only exception was the MQM. Dr Farooq Sattar was justified in castigating Khursheed Shah for saying that the fight against Taliban was not “our war”. “How can you say that when your own leader, Benazir Bhutto, gave her life for saying that terrorism was our war and we have to fight it”.
He went on to differentiate between the “murderers and martyrs.”
His argument was that the peace process could not be derailed because Taliban would not talk if the drone strikes continued. “We gave the mandate of talks to the government for unconditional talks on either side,” he said warning the government against negotiating on Taliban’s terms. “We can’t simply ‘mitti pao’ on the killings of 5000 countrymen; who will speak for them?”
He believed that the Parliamentary resolution should not be seen as endorsement of Taliban actions. “We will send a wrong signal if we passed a resolution against the drone strikes without the context of Taliban excesses,” he said daringly. “We favour peace talks but Taliban can’t put up conditions.”
The crux of his speech was: the MQM support for the peace initiative was not open-ended. It should not be seen as an encouragement of terrorism or its perpetrators -basically Taliban.
This seemed as a wrench in the plan of the PTI chapter of the PML (N) – or vice-versa – to surrender before Taliban unconditionally. Or so it looked from the Press Gallery.
Tailpiece: The opposition boycott of the Senate proceedings entered the seventh day. The stalemate continues as Chaudhary Nisar refuses to come to the Upper House to clarify his position. The situation turns more dramatic today as the opposition decided to hold its session in the open ground outside the Parliament. This should be exciting stuff for TV cameras. It will be a first of its kind in our parliamentary history – but definitely not the last considering the ego of government Einsteins. The PPP, it seems, is trying to go back to its original street style, but it may be too late for Ch Aitzaz Ahsan.
November 6, 2013