How to end the conflict in FATA
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Dr A Q Khan
No matter what one is thinking or what one is reading, one's thoughts automatically focus on the ongoing "terrorism" and the law and order situation. After an attack, in which dozens die and are injured, the president and prime minister strongly condemn it, and announce compensation for the families of the deceased and the injured. And then the matter is closed and we wait for the next tragedy.
My advice to those in power is to try to find an amicable solution of mutual respect to the ongoing conflict in the tribal areas. Quite a large number of us have seen British rule. We remember how an entire area was administered by a commissioner, a deputy commissioner and two or three police officers. The older generation still enthusiastically recalls the peace of that golden period. I still remember that in Bhopal the police station was run by a head constable and the city by an inspector, known as kotwal. There was only one British police officer, the inspector-general, and he took care of the whole state and there was never any law and order problem. The secret to this was that locals were always employed and posted to their own areas.
In Pakistan the whole system is topsy-turvy. A police officer from NWFP is posted to Karachi, someone from Karachi is posted to Lahore or Quetta, and so on. How can he know the customs and mentality of the local people? He just passes time, tries to make some money and waits for his next posting. And that is perhaps why many heinous crimes are never solved in this country – such as the assassinations of Liaquat Ali Khan, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, Gen Ziaul Haq, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and various suicide bombings.
Whatever action the government has taken so far in the tribal areas has proved counter-productive. It has sown the seeds of hatred and could very well lead to the country's disintegration. Creating division between tribes by bribing some corrupt leaders is tantamount to following a foreign agenda.
How has it become possible to launch air attacks using helicopter gunships, jet fighters and heavy guns against our own people? This whole problem started after Gen Musharraf chose to join President Bush in his 'war on terror' after 9/11. By doing that he effectively stabbed the Pakhtuns in the back, eventually allowing the Americans to play havoc in the tribal areas. Fuel was added to the fire when Gen Musharraf's mercenaries attacked Lal Masjid and mercilessly burned to death hundreds of small children mostly girls – many of them from Pathan families. The result was retaliation with a vengeance never seen in Pakistan before. The Americans were forced to flee in disgrace from Vietnam, the Russians had to leave Afghanistan and the western allied forces are being humiliated in Afghanistan and will, in all probability, retreat. However, the wounds inflicted on our own people by Gen Musharraf and his stooges will not go unanswered.
Having said that, quite a few people are giving sincere advice. Some patriotic Pathans are trying their best to put some wisdom into the heads of the rulers. It is the need of the hour to immediately set up a committee of people like Rustam Shah Mohmand, Brig Mahmood Shah, Kamran Khan, Khalid Aziz, Amir Usman, Barrister Zahid Saeed, Prof Dr M Yousuf Bangash, former governors Ali Jan Orakzai and M Arif Bangash, Governor Owais Ghani, Rahimullah Yusufzai, Hamidullah Jan Afridi and others. These knowledgeable and sincere people could come up with a viable solution within two weeks and save the country from further disastrous consequences and possible disintegration, all being engineered by America and its cronies.
The reason why I mentioned my Bhopal story is that a president from Naudero, a prime minister from Multan, an interior adviser from Sialkot and an army chief from Gujjar Khan are not in a position to understand the psychology of the Pathans. A Pathan will give his life for you if you love and respect him, but he will take your life if you insult him and push him to the wall. The president, the prime minister and the army chief are all intelligent people and I hope they would appreciate my suggestion ad will talk to the knowledgeable people I have mentioned, so that our beloved country can get out of its quagmire. If those at the helm of affairs shut their eyes, naturally they won't see the writing on the wall.
That reminds me of the great and wise Nizamul Tusi, primer minister of Seljuk sultan Jalaluddin Malik Shah. He was a contemporary of the great mathematician, astronomer and poet Omar Khayyam and the notorious Hasan bin Sabbah, widely known for the fake paradise and his ruthless assassins. Nizamul Tusi told his colleagues and assistants: "Consultation with people of understanding is a sign of wisdom and maturity because some of them might know more than you do and could give you valuable advice." Our political leadership needs to follow this advice and seek counsel from the wise Pathans mentioned above. We should not put the interests of the Afghans before our own national interests, not least because they have been bitter enemies of Pakistan from day one.
Due to Gen Musharraf's blind support to the Americans, which totally ignored Pakistan's national interests, the country is facing serious problems. In this context, one cannot ignore the irony that those whom the people gave a resounding mandate have so far failed to act on it. Our heads should hang in shame at the thought that our beautiful country, despite having vast natural resources and being a nuclear and missile power, has become a banana republic with Islamabad no longer a safe city. Foreign missions have already started sending families of their staff back home or have relocated them to other countries. The International School of Islamabad has lost more than a quarter of its student body and Islamabad wears a deserted look. The Presidency, Parliament and the Prime Minister House are all under siege and it almost feels like being under occupation of a foreign power with movements restricted. We should be wary of rejoicing at the number of "terrorists" killed because we might end up counting our own dead and prisoners, as happened in East Pakistan.
If we look back in history we will find that any Muslim nation that joined hands with a western country ended up humiliating itself or disintegrating. Despite 50 years of rhetoric by western leaders, there is no Palestinian state. The problems being faced in Kashmir, Chechnya, Bosnia, East Timor and the creation of Lebanon by breaking up Syria are indicative of western intrigues and interference. And the reason for this is that Muslims have been at the receiving end of this disgrace because they ignored Allah's edict that Christians and Jews can never be their true friends.
When I became adviser to the government of Pakistan, I sent a simple, pragmatic proposal to Gen Musharraf suggesting how the tribal areas could be brought into the mainstream and how extremism could be largely eliminated. The suggestion was to establish a large number of vocational schools with hostel facilities at reasonably close locations. All those studying at such institutes would be paid a monthly stipend of about Rs500 and the coursework would also include religious and other basic education. With such incentives, people would send their children to these schools rather than allow them to come under the influence of extremist forces.
That way the madressahs would not get candidates for future suicide bombers and/or terrorists. Such a programme could have been up and running within two years. Had some action been taken, we would have reaped some of the benefits now and would not have seen such a tragic episode as Lal Masjid. I would have loved to implement such a programme with the help of friends and other well-wishers.
There is much more to say and I would like to go on talking about these painful events and situations, but will stop in accordance with the couplet by the famous Urdu poet, Sauda, who wrote:
Sauda, Khuda ke wastey ker quissa mukhtasar,
Mere to kaan pak gaey tere fasane men. (The News)
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Wednesday, 19 November 2008
How to end the conflict in FATA