Swallowed by the Taliban

Published: October 22, 2013

The writer is a London-based lawyer who tweets @ayeshaijazkhan

Contrary to many of my peers, I never felt as hopeless or dejected about Pakistan’s future as I did during the past election. Some were hopeful because they saw in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) ‘a new political force’ that would take on the ‘corrupt politicians’ and usher in a ‘Naya Pakistan’. Others were hopeful because a democratic transition had taken place, with one civilian government passing on the mantle to another. Frankly, neither rationale gave me much cause for celebration.

Pakistan had been derailed, gone seriously off-track. And a lot more than Imran Khan or a simple democratic handover were needed to put it back on track. The whole world had been commenting on the ‘existential threat’ to Pakistan but domestically, there was a worrying pass-the-buck attitude among the leadership, compounded by a conspiratorial mindset among the educated urbanites, refusing thus to acknowledge the problem. The enemy within us, however, the Taliban and their multiple mutations, was organised and single-minded, as clear as the rest of the nation was confused.

Time had nearly run out for Pakistan. Some of us had been writing and speaking about it as far back as 2007. General (retd) Pervez Musharraf had made mistakes, not in joining ‘America’s war’ as his critics, and more recently, many of his past allies, love to harp on about, as that wasn’t really a choice, but by alienating and exiling civilian political leadership and teaming up instead with the likes of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal. This laid the groundwork, particularly in Khyber-Pakthunkhwa, to provide safe havens for Taliban operatives. And then in 2007, Musharraf made his second big mistake by going after the judiciary, utilising precious police resources to target lawyers as opposed to terrorists. Little wonder, around the same time, blasts at soft targets began escalating.

The 2008 election offered some hope as the people had voted in more liberal parties but despite having their hearts in the right place on the issue, they were unable to curb terrorism. Some of it was due to warped priorities, such as ‘reconciliation’ for the sake of immediate, short-sighted political benefit or simply to make hay while the sun shone. But some of it was also constraint as the military and civilian leadership appeared not to be on the same page. It is terribly curious that during the five years that the PPP was in power, and would have quite easily backed cut-throat military action against the terrorists, the military appeared reluctant to follow through. And now that the PML-N and the PTI are in power, the military seems eager to battle it out but poses to be constrained by civilian leadership. What gives?

The PML-N and the PTI, for their part, naively hoped that if they kept sympathising with the Taliban, they would be spared by them. Beyond this wishful thinking, they had no strategy of dealing with the direst threat to the existence of our state. Calling an All Parties Conference (APC) was reflective of this. Had the PML-N had any clue about how to tackle the terrorism problem, it would have led with a clear plan, not called an APC to pass the buck and find excuses for inaction.

As for Imran Khan, he has seriously misled the youth of Pakistan. Blaming everything on the US and drones, he preaches that we are a proud nation, which has been reduced to being a beggar by corrupt politicians. Simple solutions, devoid of historical accuracy, are appealing, of course, but have little to do with reality. He talked of making the green passport respectable and bringing investment to Pakistan but all he has brought is misery and more terrorism. By not taking on the Taliban, the PTI and the PML-N have emboldened them to act with greater impunity. In the case of the PML-N, perhaps it is myopia that leads to the belief that for as long as Punjab is spared, why should it care about the rest of Pakistan (unforgivable as that attitude may be)? But what is the PTI’s excuse? Meanwhile, as investment flows to other less developed countries irrespective of their corrupt politicians and militaries, we are slowly being swallowed by the Taliban.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2013.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • aqib
    Oct 22, 2013 - 12:51AM

    One thing, which many of us seem to forget, between 2008-13 these ‘liberal parties’ did not do much against the militants. the army has been ever reluctant. so in these elections more than 80% seats were won by parties which want a different strategy. they should not be lambasted, as the voters were aware of their vision beforehand and chose to vote for them, in overwhelming numbers..

    ‘liberal parties’..there is nothing liberal about them.
    in 2007 attacks did not go up because of police being busy in other matters, it was due to Lal masjid saga.


  • ModiFied
    Oct 22, 2013 - 1:44AM

    Strategic assets are more important than Pakistan… This is what Hafiz Saeed and his pay masters believe so strongly at least.


  • shahid
    Oct 22, 2013 - 2:04AM

    >> But what is the PTI’s excuse?

    So are you ready to leave the comforts of sitting in London and fight this war on the actual battlefield, in support of many lashkars that have been officially created in the past couple of years, as a part of the new offensive that you are so strongly recommending. Or is it just going to be one of those wars that you plan to fight via the desk/lap tops while others lay their lives just to prove/disprove your theories that have no basis in real life on the ground? IK and others are on the ground and he has taken a consistent stand for years and warned against what will happen if we follow war based policies. What exactly have been achieved in these decade long wars that we have been fighting> How many more do we want killed, injured, maimed, made homeless? How many?


  • Vikram
    Oct 22, 2013 - 2:29AM

    Pakistan created Taliban to make Afghanistan an Islamic Emirates. Pakistanis were very happy to see finally Islam was being used to run a country in an Islamic way. Many Pakistanis were dreaming about Taliban style government. No one cared when Taliban screwed Afghans for over 2 decades because Pakistan had to do that to gain strategic depth.

    Pakistan brought planeloads of Taliban into Pakistan when US got there after 9/11. Pakistanis are getting taste of their own medicine why cry now.


  • Asad Shah
    Oct 22, 2013 - 3:52AM

    I would just take the liberty to dissect few statements in your last paragraph. First,”Imran Khan, he has seriously misled the youth of Pakistan”,”he preaches that we are a proud nation, which has been reduced to being a beggar by corrupt politicians.”

    Where do you see IK is responsible for corrupt policies of past Politicians?

    “He talked of making the green passport respectable and bringing investment to Pakistan but all he has brought is misery and more terrorism.”

    PTI is not ruling Pakistan, it is Just in KPK. PTI in KPK is victim of terrorism.


  • pakiindi
    Oct 22, 2013 - 8:36AM

    No mention of India’s role in this important topic? Why?


  • Max
    Oct 22, 2013 - 8:39AM

    “US releases prisoners from Guantanamo”

    US government releases five prisoners from infamous detention camp as gesture ahead of talks with Taliban

    “This gesture from the US government was a departure from the Obama administration’s policy of zero tolerance to negotiations with terrorists and releasing prisoners; thus, in preparation for talks with Afghan officials, the US state department redefined the Taliban as an organization that is no longer included in the US enemy list.



  • Ammar
    Oct 22, 2013 - 11:14AM

    @shahid: How many more do we want killed, injured, maimed, made homeless? How many?



  • Hammad
    Oct 22, 2013 - 11:59AM

    PMLN doesn’t operate in a vaccuum. They share a votebase with PTI. Have you seen the type of things Imran Khan has been saying vis-a-vis TTP?


  • Tabraiz Anwer
    Oct 22, 2013 - 1:14PM

    by far the way. Imran Khan is the leader in Pakistan who have the clear vision regarding terrorism. i didn’t find any politician who have clear vision except Imran khan.


  • Raja Islam
    Oct 23, 2013 - 1:42AM

    It is all about enforcing the writ of government and the writ of law. If the government is not willing to take on terrorists and criminals, then they are clearly a failure. It is not about killing, but is about the supremacy of law and the constitution. Subversive elements who do not believe in following the law of the land should be taken to task no matter who they are.


  • numbersnumbers
    Oct 23, 2013 - 3:11AM

    Please tell us where you see “India’s Role” in any of this??????


  • Dasti
    Oct 23, 2013 - 5:33PM

    most of the comments on above article has proved that we are in the state of denial & IK has done the damage by misleading our youth that we are the best and its all due to external elements. Very reflective and full of truth this article is.


  • Abdul Salam
    Oct 26, 2013 - 1:24AM

    The only problem of Pakistan is IK so it is very important to curb him ASAP…..


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