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Sunday, 12 October 2008

Taliban are under pressue; no need to negotiate with them now.

Taliban are clearly under pressure from both sides of the border. Particularly on the Pakistani side of the border, there are clear signs that Taliban are fast losing the support of ordinary citizens including Pashtuns in the tribal area. Despite some unproductive steps by rogue elements in ISI, Pakistan military operation has been quite successful at least in the last few months. Clearly, it is not the right time to negotiate with Taliban. It is time to chase, hunt and eliminate them. Thus, first there is a need to eliminate the hard-core sub-human leadership of Taliban (including Mullah Omar), and once that target has been achieved, some political dialogue may be established with the not so radical elements within Taliban.

Taliban under pressure?

THE devastating attack on a tribal peace jirga on Friday betrays one obvious truth about the Taliban: they are clearly under pressure. The security forces have been half-heartedly battling them for years but with little success. However, the military operation that began in November seems to have hit them hard. In Swat the situation may be uncertain but in Bajaur the army appears to be gaining the upper hand. But what obviously has rattled the Taliban most is the reaction among some of the neutral tribesmen. Moved by the devastation caused by the war — hundreds of their kinsmen killed and wounded, homes and orchards destroyed, and their means of livelihood crippled — many tribesmen have obviously decided not to sit idle. The lashkars they have organised and the revenge they have exacted on the Taliban by burning their homes and punishing their collaborators through other means are eroding the freedom the militants have enjoyed for a long time. The attack on the jirga near Khadezai in Kurram Agency, killing 50 people, appears to be part of the reaction of the militants.

The Taliban are unlikely to let their home ground slip from their control. They will fight back and perhaps be even more ruthless — on Friday they beheaded four ‘pro-government’ tribal elders. This could result in ferocious battles. At the same time, there is a possibility that the tribesmen may waver if they feel the situation is getting too tough to handle. That is where the government has to realise its duty: it has to do all it can to help the tribesmen continue their fight against the Taliban till the latter are tired out and made to see the futility of their enterprise.

Once again we plead that the rebellion in Fata and Swat cannot be quelled through military means alone. Peace moves are already afoot in Washington, London and Riyadh. Pakistan has to be part of the peace process and make it clear to all parties that Islamabad has never abjured negotiations as a peace strategy. This should also be made clear to the domestic opposition, for some of the MPs attending the in-camera briefing by the military have serious reservations about the government’s strategy. Parliament is of course the place for evolving a national consensus on all key issues, and the current session will not have been in vain if progress is made in that direction. But all politicians ought to know that such a thing as war cannot be viewed through the prism of domestic politics. Today’s opposition could be in power tomorrow. For that reason all parliamentarians must have an open mind on the issue, the ultimate aim being to have peace in Fata and rid Pakistan of the menace of terrorism. (Dawn)

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