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January 23, 2015

‘End distinction between good, bad Taliban’

Lahore

January 23, 2015

LAHORE
Leading public intellectuals, politicians, religious scholars and senior officers of Pakistan Army speaking at a seminar on Thursday ‘Terrorism and Our National Resolve: Religious Tolerance and Brotherhood’ called for the public to devise a narrative against terrorism and urged the government to dispel arbitrary distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban for supposed strategic interests of the country.
Speaking at a seminar organised by Government of Punjab Information and Culture Department at Punjab Institute of Language and Culture (PILAC), Brigadier Nadir Mir stated that the killing of innocent Army Public School (APS) Peshawar students was a ‘historic’ event and under no circumstances can it be business as usual for the political leadership.
The ruthless killing by Taliban militants warrants strong action from the government, said Brigadier Mir, especially when the entire nation stands united in grief and resolve to eliminate terrorism from Pakistan. Terrorism cannot be termed a simple law and order problem, we have no choice but to win and defeat these terrorist, he added.
Referring to neighbouring India, the Pakistan Army official said the country had adopted a policy of aggression towards Pakistan vis-à-vis its actions in disputed Kashmir and Afghanistan. Talking of external threats facing Pakistan, Brigadier Nadir Ali said different groups of foreign nationalities were operating in Pakistan and receiving arms support and financial assistance from abroad. It is the agenda of our foreign enemies to divide Pakistan and the separatist struggle in Balochistan has been deliberately given a political guise to fulfil this agenda, Brigadier Nadir Ali alleged. He expressed his disappointment over attacks in Karachi, Gwadar, and Wagah Border and urged Pakistani media and civil society to play a positive role in forming a public narrative against terrorism.
PTI leader Shafqat Mehmood speaking at the seminar lamented on the

support provided to militants to fight against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan under General Zia-ul-Haq. Criticizing past policy decisions, Mehmood said it was foolish of previous governments to believe that these trained militants would peacefully return to their homes after fighting in Afghanistan, avoiding a serious ‘blowback’ for national security. It is unfortunate that only after the massacre of children in APS Peshawar, Mehmood remarked, all political parties united against terrorism, whereas this should have happened twenty years before the horrible tragedy of December 16.
Appreciating the National Plan of Action (NAP), the PTI leader lauded Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif government for publicly declaring an all out war against all militants and ending distinctions between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban. He also praised the stance of the NAP committee to have zero tolerance against arms carrying groups in the country and refer all terrorism-related cases to military courts for a period of two years. Shafqat Mehmood stated that under the two-year period the existing criminal justice system should be reformed to hold guilty terrorists accountable. Implementation of the 20 points reached by the NAP committee is essential for the success of the war against terrorism, he concluded.
Urdu poet and columnist, Ata-ul-Haq Qasmi speaking on the occasion said the government had been asleep despite a series of unfortunate events and had only woken up to the problem of terrorism when children were mercilessly slaughtered in Peshawar. The enemy is in our midst, said Qasmi, and uses the guise of Islam for its sinister ambition for power. He regretted that past governments had nourished these elements for their benefit and the current government had yet to stop the flow of hate speech.
Senior journalist Sohail Warraich explained the narrative of Taliban and offered suggestions for ways to counter it using religion and culture. The Taliban narrative is of creating disorder in society as evidenced in suicide bombings and challenging democracy, the true expression of public will, Warraich said. He said the general public at large did not believe in violence and attacks on schools by the Taliban had popularly resulted in massive public protests. Utilising subcontinent’s passion for education and a vibrant culture, Warraich said, and including ‘humanity’ in the curriculum of Madrasas and other schools is critical to fighting terrorism. He urged the government to not only provide laptops to Madrasa students but also provide free internet connection so that they could access the outside world.
Former chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), Dr Arfa Syeda Zehra said the ongoing wave of religious radicalism threatened the collective memory of Pakistan’s past. Referring to a threatening letter sent to her by former Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud, the former NCSW chairperson told the audience that he had threatened to kill her for her activism for female empowerment.
Such is the nature of the enemy we are confronted with, she added.
Senior Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader, Naveed Ch, reminded the audience that late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto had predicted the onslaught of terrorism in the country upon her return to the country after exile. As a party, PPP had maintained that negotiations with terrorists would not deliver results, said Naveed. Reacting to protests carried out in Pakistan against French cartoons, the PPP stalwart said Pakistan had enough internal enemies to worry about at length before pointing accusatory fingers at other countries.
Maulana Tahir Ashrafi of Pakistan Ulema Council retorted PPP leader Naveed Ch by stating that former premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had jumpstarted the policy of providing select state patronage to extremist groups. Our former Interior Minister Naseerullah Babar under a PPP government had called these militants his children, claimed Maulana Ashrafi. Criticising public apathy, the religious scholar lamented that more people had turned out to protest terrorist attacks in France than in Pakistan where more than 134 students had been brutally killed by the Taliban. There are two aspects to this war, said Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, one is military and the other is ideological thus General Raheel Sharif cannot win this war on his own and needs the support of the public. Addressing criticism of Madrasas, the Pakistan Ulema Council Head said the government was being disingenuous and not checking its favoured Madrasas for hate speech literature. There are no ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban, he concluded.
Famed singer Shaukat Ali also recited a poem written by a grief stricken mother of a slain APS Peshawar student.
Former Provincial Education Minister, Mian Imran Masood, regretted that the Punjab was slowly losing its cultural traditions including Basant and the yearly Jashn-e-Baharaan festival. He criticized the culture of issuing fatwas calling for the murder of people in the name of religion and regretted that the Council of Islamic Ideology had been silent on terrorism in the country.
Chairman of Zakat Committee, Maulana Raghib Naeemi, speaking at the seminar said the country should have developed a narrative against terrorism when the problem first emerged in Pakistan. The religious scholar urged the government to invest authority to issue fatwas only to the Council of Islamic Ideology to avoid the misuse of religion by unqualified clerics.
Chief guest of the seminar former governor, Punjab, Khalid Maqbool, said relationship between terrorists and Madrasas in the country is a matter of concern that warrants government attention. Parliamentary Secretary for Information and Culture PML-N MPA Rana Arshad ended the seminar with a vote of thanks to all the speakers and wished for the success of Operation Zarb-e-Azb and said the killing of APS students would be avenged at all costs.