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Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Is PML (Nawaz Sharif) a new friend of Taliban? Terrorists in the Parliament...

Inviting terrorists into parliament?

The JUIf chief and one of the leaders of the ruling coalition, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, has demanded that the people who are called terrorists by the government should be allowed to present their point of view in parliament during the in-camera session. This means that he wants the Pakistan Army to be put at par with the people it is fighting in the Tribal Areas. Is this his idea of “justice”? When it comes to choosing, will he support the terrorists and spurn the army? The last JUI-led MMA government in Peshawar did exactly that for five years until it was dissolved on the eve of the 2008 elections and later routed in the elections by the people for such policies.

More significantly, the PMLN leader Mr Nawaz Sharif has declared that he would support the proposal that “shiddat-pasand” (extremists) be “included” in the political process. As if parliament is not sovereign at the present time, he demanded that it “be empowered to end terrorism”.

Clearly, neither the opposition nor the clerical side of the coalition is happy with the traditional definition of parliament and wish to reform it in the light of the spreading terrorist disorder in the country. Opposition parliamentarians and the media are in unison when they demand that parliament act differently from the past and somehow produce a single agreed point of view. Normally parliaments don’t operate like that. There is always disagreement among them and the government, if it has a majority vote, is allowed to pursue policies it thinks fit. If there is no “national consensus” on something and parliament wants to know where it stands, it has rules under which such issues can be discussed inside the house. If the government agrees with the opposition, which otherwise cannot force discussion of an issue because of lack of votes, discussion can take place.

How can the terrorists be invited to parliament? Under law the government is obliged to put such elements through the due process of law. We understand that Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s party has important representation in the Tribal Areas and the representatives are present in the parliament with full rights to speak for the people of the agencies they come from. But if the Maulana is harkening to the call given by the Taliban of the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TPP) that they too be given an in-camera hearing, it simply can’t be done. The TTP has admitted to killings that must first be prosecuted and their point of view can be heard out only during the trial as is the case with all those who break the law of the land. A court and not parliament is the proper forum to hear the views of alleged criminals and terrorists.

How can the “shiddat-pasand” elements be brought into the political process? The question presumes that there is a legal order in the country and there are people standing outside it who have to be brought in. In the context of the Tribal Areas, one can imagine that the “process” can be initiated through talks and negotiations. The next question is what should be the modality of this process? And should the two sides of these talks be considered equal? Should the government of Pakistan be made to behave as if it was at par with the “shiddat-pasand”? One must consider that if the state is allowed to become equal to those who are running a state within the state, the sovereignty of Pakistan will be damaged.

After the in-camera briefing in the parliament, our MNAs and Senators will no doubt discuss the situation in the Tribal Areas; but the final decision on how to proceed against terrorism will be taken by the National Assembly. And the decision will have to be made on the basis of the majority opinion. We know that the opposition will continue to fulminate, and will seek to lean on the media to convey their depressing message to the people at large, who will then force even a properly derived policy to become unpopular. This will be tantamount to bypassing parliament to make the terrorists win an argument where they don’t have any legal locus standi. (Daily Times)

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