Saturday November 27, 2021

Futile reconciliation

October 12, 2021

Reconciliation cannot be done in isolation; it has to have a national consensus and acceptance of their crimes by those who are receiving amnesty. When it comes to talking about amnesty regarding groups in the TTP, you cannot just bury the past for political expediency. That is like playing with the emotions of the families who have suffered so much loss.

If an amnesty is to be thought about, the prime minister must first gauge the pulse of the public through parliament: are the people of Pakistan, especially the bereaved families of victims, ready to reconcile with those who butchered their loved ones? If not, then such a decision must not be thrust on the nation. If yes, then he must go through South Africa’s famous Truth and Reconciliation philosophy coined by Nelson Mandela.

These days people and countries try to emulate this philosophy – but the key element of this doctrine is that with every reconciliation there comes a burden of truth. For example, in South Africa’s ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ Nelson Mandela’s wife who had been his biggest support system during his days of incarceration accepted that she had aided and abetted in the murder of a white teenage boy; after this, Mandela with a heavy heart divorced her.

For such reconciliation, you need the support of parliament and consent of the nation. We have Khan, with an ego higher than Himalayas, who doesn't even shake hands with the opposition leaders. Ironically, while he is reluctant to reconcile with political parties carrying the public mandate of the same country he is ruling today, he seems quite eager to reconcile with militant groups. Such a reconciliation does not only require the endorsement of the PM; it also needs the acceptance by the people who are represented by parliament. Therefore, this serious issue must be put on the floor of parliament for debate before any decision is taken in haste.

However, in Naya Pakistan there are two sets of rules; mercy for those who toe the line with Khan and vendetta for those who stand against his incompetent and unpopular government.

Over the past many years, Pakistan has been a victim of terrorism with countless terror attacks on innocent civilians, political leaders like Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, the ANP’s Haroon Bilour, Bashir Bilour, our frontline forces who fought with ultimate valour against terrorism and not to forget the deadliest APS school massacre where 149 innocent Pakistani citizens including 132 children were killed at the Army Public School, Peshawar. The students were kept hostage and forced to watch their teachers and principal being killed in front of them. It was barbaric and horrifying; and the survivors of the APS attack must still be living in that trauma.

This deadliest massacre shook the entire world. Later, in January 2015 the National Action Plan was established by the government of Pakistan as part of a crackdown against terrorists; the operation was carried out because the public sentiment was strong against those who had murdered innocent children. The APS attack was one of the many horrific incidents witnessed by Pakistan in the past few years; the wounds of these attacks are still fresh and won't be easy for the nation to forget.

The question is: who has given the government the authority to forgive any individual or group without having a debate in parliament, a forum he has never taken seriously since the day he entered the power corridors. Will he again use his much favoured tool of ‘presidential ordinance’ to by-pass parliament in this regard? So far that’s how he has been trying to thrust his decisions, be it ‘open balloting’ in the Senate elections or the recent promulgation of a presidential ordinance for the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in elections.

There has been much public concern regarding an amnesty for TTP groups. First, who would take responsibility if the militant group were to breach the agreement? Second, who will be the guarantor? Third, would the families of martyrs be taken into confidence? This is a serious matter which needs a national consensus and thorough debate – not the whims and wishes of the prime minister as an individual.

The million-dollar question is: with a thin questionable majority in parliament, unpopularity in the public, and isolation from the international world – is the prime minister even eligible to offer an amnesty? Moreover, can we trust those who butchered our innocent students? Will they not repeat that terror again in future?

The nation’s will is more important than that of the PM; is the nation willing to give amnesty to such elements? These are some of the many questions that Prime Minister Imran Khan must answer to the nation in parliament before giving sweeping statements.

The writer is a columnist and social activist.

Twitter: @MustafaBaloch_