I am sure all Pakistan watchers have heard/read about the recent speech that President Zardari gave at the SAFMA conference. One sensed high degree of helplessness in President Zardari’s words; reflecting limited, if any, options with the Pakistani state for tackling the Taliban. Zardari admitted that the Presidency in Pakistan had been stripped off its powers. While people could complain about everything to him and blame everything on him, he could have been more accountable if he had more powers!
He lamented the lack of material support from the Pakistani society for Salmaan Taseer’s family, He said that though Malala’s father had refused security cover for the family, her fate was sealed as, even if the security were to be provided to her, the Taliban could have launched a bigger attack to kill her, resulting in collateral damage as well.
He also alluded to the lack of financial resources with the state to wage a war against the Taliban. He talked about the lack of support from other countries for Pakistan, the possible blowback from the Taliban in the event of a military initiative against them (hinting at possible terror attacks) and the unity among the rightists in the country. He also mentioned how useless it was to seek consensus with the opposition (which he said was relying on the rightist vote) for an initiative against the Taliban. He asked the audience if it knew how many Madrassas there were and how easy it was for the extremists to bring them together in the event of war with the Taliban.
Yes, these were the contents of the speech by the Head of the Pakistani State!
He subsequently discussed the importance of reconciliation with and accommodation of demands of the extremists instead of going to war.
The moment I heard the speech, I wondered how Zardari’s stand was different from that of Imran Khan’s!
Imran, who is an author of a book on the tribal culture in Pakistan, eulogising it, has been accused of supporting the extremists. He denounced the Malala attack but linked it to drone strikes. He supports Jihad in Afghanistan against the US. Imran clearly is taking a stand on issues that hints at “accommodation of and reconciliation with” the Taliban that Zardari hinted as his desire in his SAFMA speech as well.
Imran Khan therefore seems to be proactively taking a position on the Taliban which the Pakistani state will be compelled to take sooner or later, keeping in mind its helplessness in dealing with the issue in any other way. Imran probably sees the writing on the wall, and has taken a stand that would not only help him in the next elections with the rightists’ vote but will also vindicate him when the Pakistani government comes around the same view as his for peace with the Taliban sooner or later.
It’s a different matter though that the raison d’etre of the Taliban is not to live and let live but to establish strict Sharia, not only in Pakistan but beyond. Neither Zardari nor Imran probably see it coming.
Blog Updated October 26, 2012.
My young Twitter friend from Pakistan @MAK009X provided me a link to an Imran Khan interview clarifying his position on the Taliban.
After watching the interview, I had the following questions in mind. Hope one day Imran will answer these to convince all that his plan to tackle the Taliban will work.
For the period between USSR’s withdrawal from and NATO attack on Afghanistan, the area was a breeding ground of terror. Why?
Imran assumes that the area will keep on exporting terror and the world will keep quite. Doesn’t work that way.
Imran was not questioned on why the Pakistani state uses terror as an instrument of state policy. He didn’t speak on it either.
Surprising Imran quoted Kayani complaining about lack of political process in Swat. Army only killed political institutions!
Imran’s idea is to start action after the US stops drone strikes. That’s beyond control. Does Pakistan have so much time?
That the Taliban want Shariat is well known. Imran downplays it. Naive. That’s it.