Appeasing the Taliban Won’t Work Imran Khan

A closer examination of Pakistani history reveals why politician Imran Khan’s apologist attitude toward the Taliban will fail to achieve lasting peace and security.

imran-khan-talibanI have deep admiration for the great cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. I had even greater respect for him before he entered politics. I believe he would have by now won the Nobel Prize if he had stuck to his social and education work inside Pakistan, but his ambition or lust for political power let him loose upon the people of Pakistan.

Consequently he lost much of the respect he had. Still on social media, Khan is probably the most popular leader in Pakistan, but social media is not that trustworthy. The Facebook fanfare of former President Pervez Musharraf misled the dictator and he opted for Pakistan thinking that he would be welcomed by millions; and lo here he found a few hundred only. And the “poor” dictator is now languishing in a hospital relying on his medical reports for an indemnity.

When Imran Khan was campaigning before the general election, we all thought he would secure a victory, especially in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh. What we saw instead was a tsunami in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab and Sindh were won by Pakistan Muslim League (N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Khan could not make any significant dent in Punjab or Sindh. He is now so frustrated that he wants to enter Sindh like Mahmood of Ghazna entered India. One gets scared of the day when Khan, in his quest for power, would say he will enter Sindh like Muhammad Bin Qasim, the Umayyad general who conquered Sindh in the 8th Century.

Imran Khan is either idiosyncratic or a staunch pacifist

His love for peace is, and must be, shared by every sane Pakistani but his analysis of the problem–terrorism–seems problematic. He has virtually become a Taliban apologist. Khan’s narrative that the Taliban kill innocent civilians and security services with suicide bombers, target killings and remote control blasts in retaliation of the drone attacks conducted by US forces seems too naive to accept.

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 mentioning the Pakistani military arrangement of grooming terrorists as proxies to be used for the “security of the country.”

Given Khan’s hostile politics on drone attacks, it becomes a maneuver to save the politicians of his political party, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (Pakistan Justice Movement), especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. If he were sincere he would have spoken up against the powerful forces that has nourished the terrorists in the past; and as some suggest, has not given up the practice even today despite the loss of over 5,000 security personnel and some top brass officials.

Researchers say drone attacks began in 2004 while terrorism in Pakistan began 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 readiness to do so showed the way to the Pakistani military to design a policy which allowed the military establishment to groom, nourish and train private armies.

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They applied this practice against their own countrymen in the former East Pakistan where “loyalist terrorists” were let loose against Bengalis under the banner of organizations like Al-Badr and Al-Shams, whose ghosts still haunt our elite and stubborn parliament that recently issued a “warning resolution” to the Bangladesh government after the execution of Abdul Quader Molla, who was hanged for 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 power of American dollars.

In my first ever visit to the University Town in Peshawar in the early 90s, I asked my host the address of his office. He said it was near the Taliban Markaz; this compound was used to enlist the madrassa 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 installing and testing the mujahideen governments. The rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan had the full support of Pakistan and these men under the name of the Taliban were nothing but Pakistani puppets.

We in Pakistan curse the USA as an imperial power but forget the skeleton in our cupboard. Given the role of Pakistan in East Pakistan and Afghanistan, Pakistan is the worst type of imperialist nation. Pakistan has a bloody history of sectarian cleansing. And now the Pakistan Taliban has taken this war among the warring sects to the extreme.

Imran Khan: We love peace in Pakistan but who can assure peace when the decision rests with the Taliban?

The Taliban dictate the terms for peace, they call the shots and you, and people like you, strengthen them by acquiescing to their demands. They are at large to kill the brave sons of the land. They murdered politician Bashir Ahmad Bilour for speaking out against the Taliban and more recently another brave man Chaudhry Aslam. They will thus kill one by one and you and your fellows will talk “peace by dialogue.” We all want that but it won’t work.

Zubair Torwali is a researcher, linguist and human rights activist. Born and raised in Bahrain Swat, Pakistan, he heads the Institute for Education and Development, a civil society organization working for the conservation of cultural, lingual and natural heritage among the linguistic communities in north Pakistan. Zubair was recently awarded the Prof. Anita Ghulam Ali Award of Teachers and Education in Emergencies. Read other articles by Zubair.