Written by Sajjad Shaukat
No doubt, peace dialogue with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been showing positive results in wake of ceasefire, maintained by TTP and the government. Both sides seem to exercise restraint, and show patience to comply with the truce. Public feels relief, hoping that talks with the militants will bring peace in the country.
Some media anchors and politicians were saying that fortunately, no suicide bombings and fresh attacks on civilian installations and the Security Forces occurred. But, a high-intensity remote-controlled blast in Islamabad’s fruit market on April 9, this year left 24 people dead and dozens injured. Like the government high officials, TTP spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid also issued a condemnation and stated it was Haram (Illegitimate) to attack innocent people in public places.
Earlier, taking note of the terror-attack in the District Court of Islamabad which killed 11 people including an additional session judge on March 4, 2014 coupled with assault on the anti-polio workers in the Khyber Agency, both the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan have repeatedly said that peace talks and violent acts of terrorism cannot go side by side. Sympathizing with families of victims of terrorism, both the leaders pledged to continue talks with TTP to restore peace.
However, anti-Army statements by the Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and the Railway Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique on indictment of former Chief of Army Staff Gen. Pervez Musharraf spoke volumes of avenging vendetta of politicians against Army as an institution. The acrimony of their provocative assertions and mischievous pledges to prosecute Gen. Musharraf without belittling Army seem malicious. The duplicity of thought creates confusion when political leaders state that the ultimate aim of prosecuting Musharraf is to deter Army from any future misadventure.
Taking cognizance of the biased criticism of Army, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif said on April 7, “Pakistan Army upholds the sanctity of all institutions and will resolutely preserve its own dignity and institutional pride.” He regretted the timing of the campaign to “malign the military as an institution,” and added, “Country is faced with multiple internal and external challenges. Gen. Raheel elaborated, “Drawing its strength from national support, with its characteristic coherence and resilience, Pakistan Army has contributed immensely towards national security and nation building and will continue to deliver on its mission.”
Almost all the leaders of the mainstream political parties and segments of society favoured the statement of army chief, remarking that the ruling party was undermining military’s institutional morale, and was ignoring its sacrifices during the ongoing war against terrorism.
The army leadership is also believed to be upset over the release of TTP prisoners by the government. The security establishment believes that it is too early to release such prisoners. In this regard, defence analyst Gen. (R) Talat Masood stated, “The army leadership is under immense pressure from within the institution over the way peace talks are being conducted by the government with the Taliban…it gives the impression that the military is a weak institution and cannot confront militants, though, in reality that is not the case.”
In fact, trial of Gen. Pervez Musharraf and the Army are two separate things. So government must not target Army as an institution under the pretext of Musharraf’s trial.
It is notable that TTP have been acting upon a dual strategy, as sometimes, it accept responsibility for its terror-attacks, but sometimes, it deny the same. But contradictory statements of its spokesmen prove that this militant outfit is behind several subversive acts which still continue at various places. In this respect, TTP has refused that it was behind the recent attacks, but it accepted responsibility when Taliban insurgents targeted the Rangers, Police and anti-polio workers in Karachi in wake of the peace talks. Similarly, Taliban had claimed responsibility for the brutal massacre of 23 personnel of the Frontier Constabulary who were abducted from Mohmand Agency, four years ago and later shifted to Afghanistan.
It is mentionable that TTP had condemned the brutal assault on the church in Peshawar. But, afterwards, its spokesman had remarked that it was in accordance with Sharia (Islamic Jurisprudence) which indicated that the group was behind that ruthless attack. So, ambivalent statements of the TTP-led Taliban have endorsed that it has been playing double game.
Undoubtedly, in our country, the victims of terror attacks and suicide bombings have been innocent men, women and children. Their families mourn and raise a question asking for what crime their loved ones were punished in a way—that the scattered pieces of their dead bodies were assimilated to bury. Regrettably, those entities which try to justify terrorism and suicide bombings in the name of Islam are misguiding the people, while these brutal acts are clearly against the teachings of Islam.
In Islamic faith the term “Fatwa” is a religious verdict which is used for obtaining legal opinion from a qualified Islamic jurist or Mufti on issues pertaining to the Islamic law. Fatwa generally contains details of scholar’s (Mufti’s) reasoning, typically in response to a particular case, and is considered binding precedent for all Muslims and religious scholars. Thus Fatwa is respected interpretation of Sharia, and becomes a religious ruling for the followers. Those violating the Fatwa certainly fall in the category of betrayal and extravagance or acts of infidelity.
While, TTP militants have been using suicide bombing as their main weapon against their own country by targeting innocent civilians, women and children, Armed Forces and government functionaries, markets, schools, parks, mosques, churches, temples, shrines, bus stops, railway stations, passengers’ trains and so on. Majority of persons in Pakistan has confused, as they can not absorb the psychological shock created by terrorists through their criminal acts of suicide bombing. The media analysts and general observers around the world are bewildered, as suicide bombers called themselves the followers of Islam.
In this context, Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti (Mufti-e-Azam),Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh issued a Fatwa asserting that suicide attacks are illegal and illegitimate (Haram). He explained, “Such acts fall under the category of crime and suicide bombers or attackers are destined to go to Hell…they represent an adversary of Islam and enemy of Muslims and they commit crimes against humanity, while misguiding other Muslims, especially the innocent youth. Denouncing terrorism as un-Islamic, he pointed out that terrorists’ activities are part of a conspiracy to defame Islam and destroy Muslims.
In this respect, the media including other political and religious entities must impress upon TTP militants to follow the religious decree of Sheikh Abdul Aziz. Particularly, TV talk shows must be held, highlighting the main points of Mufti-e-Azam’s Fatwa by suggesting to TTP militants that instead of disregarding their faith they must learn from his ruling and positively change their conduct. They must indicate that suicide bombings are denounced by the entire Muslim world. Islam teaches tolerance and rejects extremism. TTP commanders must revisit their tactics of using suicide bombing and rationalizing their power motives, if they are sincere in their efforts to bring peace in Pakistan. They must also extend an apology to the nation for killing innocent Muslims and seek Allah’s pardon.
Besides, dialogue with TTP is a splendid idea, but is an intricate process which envisages cool temperament and shrewd posture. A comprehensive strategy requires handling different stages of dialogue with dignity.
Government must exercise prudence in accommodating TTP viewpoint and meeting their demands, while the prestige and image of Armed Forces must be maintained at all cost, and nothing should be agreed without paying due regard to Army’s interests.
The political leadership must own the Armed Forces and avoid their criticism as institution—recently initiated by some ministers. All efforts must be made to improve civil-military relations. Confused pledges and evasive statements mislead the public, adding to their worries.
Politics of playing revengeful games must be stopped, while decisions must be made in the larger interest of country. Point scoring through media statements gives birth to grievances and inner grumblings which lead to confrontation and conflict.
The country needs good governance to settle serious issues like law and order, inflation, price hike, poverty, corruption, energy crisis, sectarian violence, terrorism etc. Let us pay attention to these issues and make fair decisions to improve the life of general public.
Despite all of this, TTP has been following dual tactics. Hence, dialogue with TTP contains a complicated process. So, the government must show wisdom. Instead of following the policy of appeasement towards the Taliban, it must also pay attention on the religious verdict of Sheikh Abdul Aziz.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations