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Analysis: Diagnosis first, dialogue later


By Imtiaz Gul

The Express Tribune September 24, 2013


The September 22 deadly twin suicide bombings at a church in Peshawar left no ambiguity about it – the nature of these strikes manifests a campaign targeting innocent Pakistani citizens, irrespective of faith, caste or creed, as well as the entire security apparatus.

The masterminds of attacks on mosques, temples, churches, and even military men and security installations have no religion. Neither are they driven by a real political ideology nor do they possess an iota of interest in what the All Parties’ Conference (APC) had expected of them i.e. peace.

Therefore, it was of no surprise that a despondent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif almost ruled out talks when he told the media in London that “the behaviour and actions of the militants did not augur well for any kind of peace talks as the government’s efforts for a dialogue with the Taliban were now deemed not to be moving forward.”

This also portends no surprise for those who had already predicted that an inherent and almost irreconcilable conflict in civil-military perceptions and absence of clarity would soon bring the entire political process to a grinding halt. And here we are, mourning the death of at least 83 precious Pakistani citizens in Peshawar.

A major reason for scepticism that followed the APC lies in the fact that the majority of the civilian leadership lacked clarity on possible interlocutors. Whether it was Imran Khan, PM Nawaz Sharif or religious-political leaders, they failed in identifying the source of terrorism; are the perpetrators really those members of the Taliban that political parties want to reach out to? Or are they foreign proxies, entirely focused on instability through death and destruction?

During the APC, the army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI chief Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam had practically ruled out dialogue with foreign elements as well as those supported by external forces. They had reportedly pointed out the presence of a considerable number of foreign fighters – Arabs, Arab-Africans, Uzbeks (from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan), and Uyghurs (including from the Islamic Turkestan Movement), which represent a huge threat. They also said that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is a protective umbrella for these foreign militants and this made it a complex issue for security forces.

This underscored the military’s insistence on diagnosis of the “enemy”, a phrase Gen Kayani has often invoked on several occasions to define the TTP’s inimical approach towards the state. The army also knows that the Tehreek-i-Taliban led by the Ahmedzai Wazirs of South Waziristan, the Tehreek-i-Taliban North Waziristan led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur (an Utmanzai Wazir), as well as another faction led by Maulvi Sadiq Noor  (a Dawar Wazir) in the North are not opposed to the state of Pakistan. Neither are the Lashkar-e-Islam and Ansarul Islam.

“The increasingly complex external environment and our rather precarious internal dynamics have created a myriad of security challenges [...] Today, we are pitched against an amorphous enemy when the conventional threat has also grown manifold,” Kayani had said.

Talking to religious militants is wise but it cannot be done without correctly diagnosing the malaise. Until the civil-military diagnosis of the crisis emerges, terrorists will keep hitting at will, taking more precious lives.

Imtiaz Gul is the executive director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, and the author of the recently released book Pakistan: Before and After, published by Roli Books, India

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk