War and peace
Saturday, October 18, 2008
As debate on terrorism and the national security situation continues in the secret session of parliament, members of opposition parties have called for an end to the use of force and the opening up of talks with militants. The JUI-F chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, has offered to mediate between the government and militants. Faced with fierce criticism over its policies, the government has said it may reconsider them. The ongoing discussion at the joint sitting of both houses coincides with a peace accord in the Kurram agency, mediated by tribal elders. Under it, the warring Turi and Bangash tribes, locked for months in a sectarian conflict that has claimed hundreds of victims, have agreed to re-open roads in the area, exchange prisoners, release kidnapped persons and, with any luck, end violence. For months food has not been reaching the upper parts of Kurram agency, adding to the suffering of thousands in Parachinar and other towns. People have been forced to travel through Afghanistan to reach Peshawar. Now that peace seems to have won over war, their plight will hopefully improve.

The triumph of peace, over conflict, is almost always welcome. Certainly, this is the case in Kurram where too much blood has been senselessly spilled. But we must question whether the call for dialogue made by opposition figures in parliament is necessarily a wise one. The problem is that, in the past, talks with militants have repeatedly been violated by them. The most recent example of this came only weeks ago in Swat. A deal under which key figures of Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah Mohammadi were released in return for peace was broken within months by militants. This has happened too in Bajaur, in Waziristan and elsewhere. That the roar of gunfire has ceased in Kurram is good news. Negotiations seem to have worked in halting the battle between local Shia and Sunni tribes. But elsewhere in our northern areas, the nature of the war between militants and security forces is rather different. These elements threaten the very existence of Pakistan; they have proved themselves to be unreliable, committed only to pursuing their own self-interest. For these reasons, the strategy to be adopted against them needs to be carefully considered. The parliamentarians must keep in mind that peace may not always be preferable to war, particularly when such a peace means more violence in the future. These factors must be carefully weighed and all sides put forward at the debate before any final conclusion is reached.


Sunday,
October 19, 2008,
Shawwal 19, 1429 A.H

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