The All Parties Conference (APC) convened by the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islami Fazl faction (JUI-F) attended by 22 main political parties although announced to participate and support every peace effort engaging the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) although is a step in the right direction but has little chances of success.
During the JUI-F APC majority of the participating 22 political parties and clerical groups asked the government to respond positively to the TTP acceptance of talks offer. The conference also asked the government to empower the ‘Grand Jirga’ of tribesmen constituted recently under the aegis of JUI-F to hold talks for peace with the TTP.
The declaration which was issued at the end of the APC read that the present government, the caretaker set up and the next elected government would be bound to implement the decisions taken at the conference. Another point of the declaration read “We support every peace process and talks which can ensure implementation of the law and the Constitution.”
It is heartening that most of the mainstream political parties are calling for and backing talks with the TTP when the latter has accepted the peace talks offer made by the government. However, the conditions appended by the insurgent for the talks are outside the ambit of Pakistan’s constitution. Therefore, one is at a loss regarding the acumen of the political parties while pressing for talks. In other words talks to bring peace are always good but could talks with the TTP bring peace and if yes would this peace be with honour and dignity for the state?
Regarding positive response from the government to the TTP for peace talks is based on the lack of understanding of the situation. It is important to note that the TTP only accepted the talks offer made several times by Interior Minister Rahman Malik and Awami National Party (ANP) led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government. However, the TTP accepted the federal government offer but dismissed that of the ANP arguing the latter did not have any power and the mandate to talk. So if today the political parties of the country are calling upon the PPP government to respond positively to the TTP talks offer than it is based upon total lack of understanding. On the other hand the political parties are emphasizing on talks within the ambit of Pakistan Constitution and law while the TTP has unequivocally declared it would not lay down arms or accept the country law. Last December the TTP declared it was ready to hold talks for peace with the government but it as a precondition demanded large-scale changes in the country’s constitution to make it Islamic. Setting the conditions the TTP head Hakimullah in a video reportedly had stated: “The government will have to quit its alliance with the US and it is required to come out of its war in Afghanistan. It will have to rewrite the country’s constitution according to Shariah in place of the present secular system and also apologize for the war launched against us in the country.”
In such a situation what could be the response of the government and that also of the PPP, whose top leadership has no interest at all in the situation prevailing in the KPK and FATA or for that matter Balochistan.
In so far the point of the declaration binding the present and future political set-up to implement the decision of the JUI-F APC is concerned it is nonsensical. Every elected government has its own policies and modus operandi to deal with various issues facing the country then how it could be dictated by someone, who has no mandate to do so. So it seems to be a bid of the JUI-F to convey its sympathies to the insurgents by making it believe that it tried its best to stop any punitive action by the next government. As the JUI-F and the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) have already entered into an electoral alliance and as both have traditional links with the Taliban and other banned religious groups the inclusion of that point in declaration is to pave the way for inaction if they come to power through the next elections.
On the other hand demanding from the government to authorize the Grand Jirga of KPK and FATA to negotiate with the TTP on behalf of the government is indeed based on chicanery. The so-called Grand Jirga is a JUI-F handpicked body and giving it an official mandate would result in ceding territory to the Taliban.
The JUI-F APC is preceded by a similar conference by the ANP very recently, whose main outcome was talks with the Taliban within the framework of the law and the Constitution.
It is important to understand that what factors compelled the ANP and particularly the JUI-F to hold conferences with calls to hold talks with the TTP. In this respect the timing of the conferences is crucial. The conferences were held when the caretaker government is about to takeover and it is the election season in the next few months. So the main purpose of these conferences particularly the JUI-F was to give impression to the TTP that the parties are doing their best to ensure talks. In this way the parties one the one hand could buy time from the insurgents, which could be utilized to make possible the holding of elections in a peaceful manner particularly in the KPK and FATA. Because the JUI-F has high stakes in the coming elections as it expects to win a decent number of seats from these parts of the country. On the other hand the purpose of the conferences is also to prevent the TTP from launching attacks on the JUI-F and the ANP leaders. In fact, apart from the JUI-F and the ANP to a certain extent all the other political parties of the country have no interest in the issues and problems of the tribesmen and the JUI-F has been able to use this situation to its grind its own axe. The only exception is that of PTI of Imran Khan, which has a very deep understanding of conflict in the FATA as this can be gauged from one of the books of Imran Khan which is about FATA. The PTI has surfaced as a potential challenge to the JUI-F particularly in the KPK and the FATA and it has a very viable support based in these regions apart to the PML-N in the Punjab. The PTI popularity in the KPK, FATA and Balochistan can be gauged from the consistent surveys of the US International Republican Institute (IRI), in which the popularity rate of the party is around 33 percent while that of JUI-F and PML-N is only nine percent. On the basis of the PTI understanding of the situation of FATA, the party chose not to participate in the APD of JUI-F and it was the right decision as the conference declarations are going to be inconsequential.
Observation spanning years reveals that the JUI-F is very clearly a party which can be labelled as Taliban sympathizer. It was in the JUI-F led Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal government (MMA) of the KPK which turned a blind eye to the activities of Maulan Fazlullah in Swat.
Religious movements like the JUI may have its own decent and forceful traditions but its greedy and worldly heads like Maulana Fazlur Rahman, seems to have a strong personal bearing on the policies of the outfit. It is the hunger for power and government that people like Fazlur Rahman have been unable to clarify in deeds, not in words, whether they or on the side of Taliban or against it. Therefore, sometime back some traditionalist leaders of the party led by MNA from Balochistan Maulana Asmatullah have formed a new faction of the party called JUI-Nazriati (Ideological).
So the conference by JUI-F for talks with the TTP was motivated by vested interests as the timing of the conference suggests; so it would not be of any help.
(The writer is a political analyst and researcher: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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