Pakistani blood is cheap, but negotiations with the Taliban is an outrageous idea

Published: September 21, 2013

Born in 1960 in Mianwali, Punjab, he joined the Pakistan Army in 1983 as a commissioned officer. PHOTO: ISPR

Born in 1960 in Mianwali, Punjab, he joined the Pakistan Army in 1983 as a commissioned officer. PHOTO: ISPR File photo of Taliban members. 

A dead major general is nothing to be ashamed of. There are countries in our neighbourhood who have lost their presidents and prime ministers to the violence of dissenters. We ourselves lost a former prime minister and popular leader to bullets.

For a country that gave away 50,000 lives, a dead major general and a dead ex-premier are nothing less than souvenirs. Their blood is the symbol of the country’s determination and steadfastness towards the right cause.

This is the sad stance that most of us have taken so far.

However, now, with attempts to reach a settlement with the Taliban, it can rightfully be asked: determination and steadfastness against whom, or what?

If the Taliban are just fellow countrymen with some specific demands amenable to reason, then what has been happening over the past decade? Was this nothing more than a sinister charade? Does this mean that 50,000 people are dead just because we made a careless strategic mistake? A prime minister is dead just because she was headstrong and a woman? Major General Sanaullah is dead only because he was retreating a day too late?

Our political representatives, in fear of their lives, kneel down before the ogre which with its demands shames even the insatiable Giaour of Caliph Vathek. However, if we are willing to end the tyranny of self-respect and forget the cheap blood of our women and children, we must acknowledge that a major general has  fallen in a lost battle, and was lost to a fallen city.”.

It is unfortunate to see that a nation based on shame and honour – as one writer once derisively put it – would one day be represented by people completely free of both these qualities; people, who conveniently forget that in the last ten years, Pakistanis have given up all they could to restore peace. It was not so long ago that the government effectively ceded control of the whole Malakand division to the militants to restrict them to just one part of the country.

The Taliban first had our religion, then our culture, and finally our land and people, and in return they wouldn’t even give us their word! Before long, they had regained their appetite. Our leaders’ short memories forget our sacrifices, while we lament with King Solomon:

“There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come, by those who will come after.”

Never has a group of men presented so clear a case against themselves; never has there been a reason to hate them and to be disgusted more.

Yet, the pussyfooting goes on like always; first the priests lost ground, then the politicians gave up and now the public is being made to surrender too at the altar of peace.

However, one should not be so naive as to accuse the Taliban of specifically targeting our senior army officers. We, who have lived and suffered in Pakistan, can stand witness to the Taliban’s visceral dislike of discrimination. They have shown themselves to be as willing to kidnap a prime minister’s son in the name of God as to shoot a teenage girl in the name of God.

It makes no difference to them, whether the blood they shed is of a middle-aged social worker or of members of a foreign cricket team. It makes absolutely no difference to their depraved hearts and dead consciences as to how many orphan hands, mourning women and dead men shoulder the burden of their cause.

The world, in vain, and in words of Rumi tells them,

“You are not God’s mouthpiece. Try to be an ear, and if you do speak, ask for explanations.”

In our self delusions and lack of cynicism, we wonder why these men don’t question themselves. The truth is they can’t! They can’t because they have made themselves the defenders of the faith. They have arrogated the right to judge and punish, and that is exactly why there is no moral red line which they can’t be expected to cross. That is why a country based on any value or principle cannot reason with them.

Their righteousness permits them to break societies, lives and even their own word. It is time we understand that those who surround us are no sentient men born in prejudice, but little, unfeeling demons whom we can’t possibly live with. Everybody knows that a deal between men and demons can never be just.

The nation is in ruins but the battle lines haven’t been drawn. With their girls being shot in broad daylight, women stoned, shrines bombed, schools destroyed, rituals violently mocked, political representatives killed, and army officers slaughtered, these people, these negotiators, still have the time and the nerve to differentiate between the good and the bad Taliban?

Reza Sultan

Reza Sultan

A graduate from UCL, who is interested in and blogs about theology and history.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    Agree with you stand but the problem right now seems to be that the people who have to deal with these criminals have not displayed that they possess the capacity to do so and unless that is not made abundantly visibly clear …………the criminals will dominate the narrative.Recommend

  • imtiaz

    u r rite, but weak politician have no answer. our leader are hyposensetized by killing of their own kind, although we are constitutionality equal but we are less equal than others. our army should quit playing games with our own govt. writer may remember only one serving major general, he forgot to mention a serving lieutenant general. 55000 is figure of 1 year back. no body accounts wounded and crippled by these attack. million displaced by war. i ask what is purpose of developing such big army, just to sit in barracks talking foul about civilians, getting ghost medal of honor, going to UN missions when we have war at home. if US can use WMD as reason to kill thousand, y we are so weak that our 55000 people can not make a case for war and we are begging for peace. why can we ask afghan to go back to their womb, when we have given them umbilical cord. people should give shut up call to saudia and iran.Recommend

  • Feroz

    The Taliban mindset has spread like Cancer through society. The State instead of cutting it at the root, fanned the fire with fake facts and an ideological narrative, playing into extremist hands. Having used these proxies as foreign policy tools, the countries strategists are loathe to take them on. The State has been complicit and is running scared that a lot of skeletons could tumble out of the cupboard.Recommend

  • ashfaq

    strongly agreed.Recommend

  • siesmann

    But the minority who supports them,idolize them,and are apologists for their blood-lust are vocal,vicious and bigoted ,and majority a silent spectator,cowed down and quiet.When will they start standing up for their fellow citizens,neighbors and countrymen?Recommend

  • observer

    “we wonder why these men don’t question themselves. The truth is they can’t! They can’t because they have made themselves the defenders of the faith.”

    And pray how many of do actually question themselves. Did the mob baying for the blood of Ahmadis stopped to ask questions? Didn’t this crowd and the Parliamentarians of the day act as ‘Defenders of the Faith’? Try moderating the Blasphemy Laws or the Hudood Ordinance, you will find that almost to the last child everyone is a ‘Defender of the Faith’.

    Why apportion this blame to the Taliban alone?Recommend

  • Anooop

    These are just pretty sounding words: “a deal between men and demons can never be just”.

    Effectively, they mean nothing.

    Taliban are Political Entities. They are present in India as Indian Mujahideen, in Nigeria as Boko Haram, in Somali as Al Shabab, in Afghanistan as Taliban, in Pakistan as TTP, etc. “What is in a name?”, I ask.

    So, its safe to say that even a physical win over the TTP, the Pakistani version, doesn’t necessarily mean they are politically defeated. They will come back in new forms, new disguises,etc.

    But, the Pakistani Govt here is floundering in the first step – defeating the insurgency.

    Its not that insurgencies cannot be defeated – India did in Sikh Insurgency, Kashmir Insurgency today pales in comparison to what it was 15 years ago, Sri Lanka has defeated it. These are just example from SAARC countries.

    And, Pakistan is much militarily stronger than Sri Lanka, that is for sure.

    What is missing?

    For me its ideology: TTP are for everything the Pakistani Constitution stands for, but in extreme, violent form. While the Pakistani State condemns Ahmadis as non-Muslims and tears down their places of worship(call it a Mosque and you go to jail), the TTP simply bumps them off.

    The difference between the Pakistani State and the TTP is of degree and means. How can you fight someone who is so similar to you? Its much easier to own them and welcome them and talk to them. This is precisely what is happening.

    Another thing which worked in India’s favour was: Insurgency was fed from foreign soil. In Sri Lanka’s case it was fed from the Northern part of Tamil-dominated areas. First the safe haven was isolated and cut off from the not-so-infected areas and then COIN came into picture. Exactly like a Doctor would isolate a disease and then fight it inch by inch towards total cure or to have a stable disease.

    But, in Pakistan’s case, LeT/JuD is taking out a rally right in the heart of Lahore. The Cancer has spread to the lungs and the liver. An oncologist will tell you, the patient doesn’t have much longer to live.

    To fight the Taliban, Pakistan has to change its very essence and meaning. Too much baggage from History for that to happen. So, no amount of column/article writing is sufficient, until that happens.Recommend

  • Reza

    I miss you my friend, Anoop. I miss you because you are one of the ‘sentient men born in prejudice’. You can come here and badmouth anything you can and spew hatred as much you wish, but it will still make me and other Pakistanis thank god for you. It is natural for a mind like yours to see only side of the picture. I like it how you suggest that all the insurgencies faced by mother India originated from foreign soil. On this, I wouldn’t want to argue with you. You are right. And men like you should always be right.Recommend

  • Reza

    A suicide attack at a church, women and children killed…..I rest my case.Recommend

  • Attiq Khan

    The size of Pakistan Army is 550,000 Active Troops and 500,000 reserves. At the same time the total count of Punjab, KPK, Sindh and Baluchistan Police is 404,234. The first thing required to establish a good law and order situation is to establish a new ministry under federal government called homeland security and put all these 404,234 policemen and 500,000 reserve military-men under this new ministry. they should be given authority to curb the violence and put up a strong feel of law and order within defined time period. Pakistan has got some spare islands in Arabian sea. These islands should be used to build Jails to put in the law violators so that no one can break the jail. Moreover this new homeland security department should be lead by a real professional. One idea could be to put General Kiyani as in charge of development of this new homeland security department after his retirement in coming November.Recommend

  • Prasad Babu

    What are the short and long term goals of Taliban? Is their vision good or bad for Pakistan?

    Taliban believe in implementing Sharia in Pakistan. The Pakistani society is overwhelmingly religious and they strongly believe Islam offers a complete package for governing personal as well as public lives. I do not think majority of Pakistanis believe democracy/secularism is in sync with Sharia. Should Pakistanis consider Taliban’s Sharia?

    If Taliban’s Sharia is wrong for Pakistan, what kind of Sharia do majority of Pakistanis want? I think Pakistanis should be honest in asking these questions.

    Fortunately or unfortunately we Indians don’t have these options. We somehow got to make democracy/secularism work, otherwise we are doomed. May be sometimes it is better not to have options?Recommend

  • Ghazain Mazari

    Finally a intelligent article as far negotiating with the Taliban is concerned. They have a lot to answer for and should be brought to justice, if we let our weak politicians negotiate with them, the 50,000 people will have died in vain and history will remember us as the people who stood by and let the Taliban take over their country.Recommend

  • surkh malang

    Your points are valid but it is important to identify the enemies and prioritize tasks accordingly.
    If emotions dictate our actions then our policy will remain unchanged; this policy has done no harm and no good, it only highlights our dislike for a certain ideology.
    In order to make tangible progress in this war, we need to identify groups that are willing to stop. This will reduce the number of fronts on which the war is being fought.

    At the moment, the plan appears to be reactionary in nature. We have to develop a targeted process of elimination, and in order to prepare for that a dialogue is necessary.
    We cannot hypothesize the rank of the enemy – there has to be a concrete understanding of where all groups stand on the issue before military resources are committed to the cause.Recommend

  • Thinking

    One cannot have dialogue with murderers and criminals. It is the duty of state and our leadership to rise to this occassion and pursue these criminals to their natural end. States dont negotiate with criminals. Our leaders must rise in national assembly and declare all people whatever school of thought they are from who are fighting against the state and people of pakistan as criminals to be hounded down and brought to justice. Dont talk, act.Recommend

  • Anooop

    Your reply is like your article. And, thats NOT a compliment!

    The funny thing is I said this:”Insurgency was fed from foreign soil.”

    I think you read that I said this: “Insurgency was originated from foreign soil.”

    Have you heard of concepts called safe havens? You know the thing Pakistan accuses Afghanistan of giving the TTP?

    Its also the same thing Pakistan gave the Taliban, when they running away from Americans from Afghanistan in early 2000s.

    Safe havens are bad because they “feed” the insurgency.

    Or, had you read the sentence correctly but misunderstood the meaning of the word “fed”?

    I’ll clear that right away too: “encourage the growth of”, says my mac.

    I can in one sentence prove you are similar to the Taliban, too.. Tell me: Do you have a Pakistani passport? :)Recommend

  • Noor

    Mr.Anoop was criticizing the ttp,taliban,ltte etc.
    Was that ‘badmouthing’ & ‘spewing hatred’ ? I don’t understand your logic ..Recommend

  • Mobile

    We get shook as nation of Pakistan, but the dialogue is due to future of Pakistan. if we take the current war and loss then we never come near. We will use by our enemy and get loss more. So this is a good step.Recommend