Repeated mistakes

It seems that the government is yet not prepared to face the reality staring it in the face. An indication of this ostrich-like posturing came from President General Musharraf’s remarks that militancy in Afghanistan is entirely an Afghan problem and its solution lies there. He was speaking at the 17th annual dinner of the Pakistani-American Public Affairs Committee (PAK-PAC). Militancy may be an Afghan problem, but its epicentre also lies in Pakistan, and this fact cannot be shrugged away through a dextrous sleight of hand. The general must realise that such a dismissive attitude towards an extremely important issue would only spell doom for Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as the whole world. Pakistan should now wake up to the ground reality, which is suggestive of a comeback of the Taliban. Reports in the Western media claim that Quetta is the hub of the Taliban and all their activities are being planned and carried out from there. The Afghan government too has time and again accused Pakistan of sheltering the Taliban, which have been dismissed as part of the blame game. Whether or not these accusations are true is another matter; the issue at hand is that of the resurgence of the Taliban and it does not go in favour of anyone. This warrants the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to forge a united front to tackle the Taliban insurgency, which is their common enemy.

If there is no peace in Afghanistan, its spillover could imperil Pakistan as well. There are allegations that the peace deal with tribal chiefs in Waziristan has led to a sharp increase in militancy inside Afghanistan, which is contrary to the actual aim of bringing it down. Given the local Taliban’s sway and edicts in Waziristan, there are valid fears that if more such deals are struck, a parallel structure of government by the local Taliban could come into being in the whole of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), with spin-off effects on the settled areas. General Musharraf is right in suggesting that the issue of the Taliban cannot be tackled by military means alone and political measures have to be taken, but in order to crush their networks, Pakistan needs strong intelligence. The Taliban are not something to be dismissed casually; their return to power means an inevitable comeback of al Qaeda.

Not only has General Musharraf adopted a casual outlook on the Taliban issue, he has also claimed that his regime is successfully tackling those sensitive issues that were swept under the carpet by previous governments. The issues include provincial autonomy, National Finance Commission Award, Kalabagh Dam (KBD), Balochistan, non-amalgamation of FATA with NWFP and Hudood Ordinance. These issues were not ignored by other governments, but as they are inherently difficult to tackle, those governments were not successful in bringing about a change. The incumbent government too has made little progress in addressing these issues. The military operations in Balochistan have only resulted in anarchy. The situation would improve only if the government gives greater autonomy to Balochistan and a due share of the resources in the gas-rich province. Passing the Women’s Protection Bill is commendable, but the real solution lies in scrapping the Hudood Ordinance once and for all. Any plans to construct the KBD should be laid to rest until and unless a national consensus can be assured. Autonomy must be given to all provinces and the Centre should not dominate them as it is presently doing. The government must make a serious commitment to tackling these issues, or else anarchy might spread all over Pakistan.

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