Today Peshawar, Tomorrow…Karachi?

Pakistan Taliban

Two items in the news today paint a bleak picture for the future of our beloved nation. First there is Ayaz Amir’s must-read piece in The News, ‘So, finally a farewell to arms‘ in which the tells us some uncomfortable truths about the reality that we are facing once the dust that gets stirred up from the Americans’ exit finally settles back down and we get a clear view of what the post-2014 landscape looks like.

What idea of talks is there in the minds of the peace lobby? Surely they are not thinking that Pakistan is the victor in this conflict. It is not. This means several things: that Pakistan will be in no position to dictate terms; that Hakeemullah Mehsud is not about to come down from the hills and surrender; and the Taliban are not about to lay down their arms. So what then will we be discussing?

An end to terrorism and suicide attacks…and the Taliban will say, fine, we end terrorism, you end military operations and become more serious with the Americans about ending drone attacks. Give-and-take, between two sovereign and equal partners…both sides get a respite, which will be a good thing. But the implications of this should be clearly understood: the notion of our sovereignty in those areas will have vanished, all the more so with the Taliban ascendant once more in the kingdom of Kabul.

If there is a growing consensus that there must be peace at any price, this is the road down which we go. No formal surrender, to be sure, just the essence of surrender.

“The notion of our sovereignty in those areas will have vanished”. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is slipping out of our grasp, and though we will continue to include it in our maps, it is quickly heading to the direction of ‘Pakistan In Name Only’. What the Indians could never do, the Taliban are managing quite nicely, chipping away at our nation until we are left with, as Amir Sahib describes it, ‘Punjab, the bomb and defence housing authorities’. As for the rest of the country, they are likely to return to the Taliban’s ‘reign of terror’ it seems.

The other news item that bears significance in this case is the report today of the assassination of MQM MPA Sajid Qureshi outside a mosque in Karachi. This is relevant because, while talks may take place to surrender determine the future of KPK, the Taliban is still taking the opportunity to advance into urban areas. This is also nothing new. The Taliban have been using a strategy of fighting until they can force a peace deal, only to use the opportunity to regroup and advance. It’s a rather simple military strategy, but one that we seem to fall for every single time without fail.

The Taliban have given their demands. Ehsanullah Ehsan told the previous government as recently as last December that the Taliban would continue fighting until the government is overthrown and the constitution scrapped for a Taliban-approved Shariah system. There is no reason to believe that this objective has changed with the government. The only thing that has changed is that we are drawing closer to the moment when our unwillingness to stand up to extremists results in our having to bow to them.

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