The return of militancy

September 29, 2022

In 2014, and soon after that when the broad-based National Action Plan was worked out by all major political parties, the people of the country had real hope that the days of militancy would soon be...

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In 2014, and soon after that when the broad-based National Action Plan was worked out by all major political parties, the people of the country had real hope that the days of militancy would soon be over. For a period indeed, militancy seemed to be on the downtrend with fewer attacks and fewer bombings of scale seen in the past.

But already just a few years later, there are reports and rumours and conjecture that militancy is rearing its head again. Analysts who have studied the problem believe that the return of the TTP is linked to the arrival of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, and that there may be links between the two with support from the Afghanistan side of the border.

It is also argued that instead of jirgas visiting Afghanistan and seeking mediation, it would be best if the government tried to deal directly with the Taliban, perhaps at the negotiating table, and definitely by bringing those who have committed heinous crimes in the past to justice.

It is said that there is also fear in Afghanistan that if they crack down too hard on the Pakistan Taliban, they will become further entangled with the Islamic State or Daesh and lead to further problems in the region. Afghans also of course have their own set of issues to deal with, ranging from their financial woes to their strangled ties with the US. Pakistan then needs to solve its own problems rather than depend on the Afghan Taliban to solve it for them. This is both unrealistic and difficult in terms of logistics.

It is also important to take a look at how the people in the affected regions are reacting to the possibility of a comeback of militancy. In Swat, there have been open protests by people amid fears that the TTP could try to return to the kind of regime they set up before 2009.

The question is: what is to be done? The solution has to be political and backed by politicians from all parties. There has been too little discussion in the current divided political realm on this matter. The fact that parliament is made up of so many parties and is essentially a weak body simply adds to the problem. But it is a problem we cannot ignore. Surely, we do not want to see more scenes such as those witnessed at APS in 2014 and in other places such as the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore.

This time around, there is an added problem. According to the information we have available, most of it from journalists who have been closely following the unfolding drama in Swat, Dir and other places notably Bajur as well as parts of Balochistan, the TTP could have become linked to other groups who have a force and influence of their own.

The way in which this process is proceeding also suggests that the Pakistan Taliban are now willing to try and form other alliances, perhaps within groups which favour their ideology in one way or the other. The Pakistan state and government need to make clear what they back. If we do not want militancy, we need to feed this into the minds of people and begin with schoolchildren. For too long, because we opposed the US, for illegitimate reasons, the Taliban were made heroes. But we must remember it is possible for two villains to exist at the same time. The US is guilty of many crimes, and many absurdities. But so are the Taliban. The people who live in Swat, Dir, Bajur and other places can certify to this although no one appears willing to hear their voices. This has to change; and it is up to parliament even in its somewhat disheveled state to try and work out the solution and put it before those who can take steps to work out a practical end to the problem before it deepens.

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor.

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