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    South Asia
     Mar 28, '14

Pro-Taliban narrative threatens Pakistan
By Deedar Hussain Samejo

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

Ongoing debate on how to deal with extremism in Pakistan is causing serious ideological rifts in society. This division is characterized by the fact that while the Nawaz Sharif-led government continues to pursue talks with the Pakistani Taliban, those same militants are exploiting the ceasefire to recruit and train more members.

The Pakistani Taliban has unleashed a wave of violence in the

country in recent years, with security personnel, health workers and civilians all targeted. Pakistan's elected leaders condemn the attacks and offer condolences to victims' families. But they are unable to channel the public's anger into action. The political leadership's pusillanimous response to the deadly violence shows a lack of commitment to fight against extremism.

The lack of will to fight reflects a disconnect over Pakistan's role in a "global war on terror". The Pakistani people, contrary to leaders in Islamabad, believe America's war is against our own people - not militants - in the tribal areas. Suicide bombings and deadly violence are the backlash.

This confusing narrative has resulted in widespread tolerance for the Taliban. This was manifested in the way that Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud's death in a drone strike last year provoked uproar from Imran Khan, Munwar Hassan and other prominent elected leaders, and why the assassinations of civilians and soldiers evokes mere condemnation of the attacks and condolences to their families.

The tolerance also reflects the magnanimity of religious-political parties towards the Taliban. These parties, who see everything through the lens of religion, enjoy considerable support in society and hold a lot of clout in the corridors of power.

The state has failed to develop an effective counter-terrorism narrative. This has paved the way for the creation of these divisions within society.

And it seems that the Taliban have got the message. The state, the militants believe, is disorientated and they - despite carrying out suicide bombings and killing soldiers - will continue to get moral support from some political parties. The ideological assistance from elected representatives is an added bonus for the militants that will greatly help them in promoting their mission. Moderate elements who are trying hard to counter the militants' narrative have suffered a huge setback in their efforts. Their faint voices, it may be argued, are slowly diminishing.

The damage inflicted upon the country due to the chaotic handling of the affair is colossal. It is not only inimical to counter-terrorism efforts, but also undermining the security of the state. The need of the hour is to subdue this state of uncertainty and bewilderment.

The nation must be reminded that the country is waging war against the militants holed up in the tribal areas, and that it is they who are responsible for the killings of some 5,000 security personnel and more than 40,000 innocent civilians. These militants do not recognize the writ of the state - they see the constitution as un-Islamic and wish to enforce their own brand of Sharia law by coercion and force.

The other important fact is, if Pakistan as suggested by the far right-wing political parties ceases its cooperation with the international community and halts all counter-terrorism operations on its territory, it would be disastrous for the country. Responsible nations, including close allies such as China, would turn against us because they would never tolerate a state that allowed safe havens for terrorists in tribal areas.

At this critical juncture, Pakistan's elected leadership must understand that appeasing terrorists, who believe killing others in the name of Islam is the ultimate purpose of life, is seriously undermining the writ of the state. There is an urgent need to create a consensus on the issue of extremism and militancy in the country, and formulate and execute a realistic counter-terrorism strategy. This is the only way to eradicate terrorism in the country.

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online's regular contributors.

Deedar Hussain Samejo, a columnist, is pursuing Masters in Political Science at University of Sindh, Jamshoro, Pakistan.

(Copyright 2014 Deedar Hussain Samejo)

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