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Sunday, 3 March 2013

Dancing with the Taliban


Dancing with the Taliban

by - Halima Mansoor
I feel like someone is about to sign my rights away as our politicos endorse negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Again. PHOTO: AFP
I am not a national security expert – I could not intelligently drop one relevant term if I wanted to. Thanks to my mother’s geographical coordinates when she gave birth, I have a green passport (for which I signed away the religious rights of over three million Pakistanis).
I feel like someone is about to sign my rights away as our politicos endorse negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Again.
On February 14, as the world celebrated One Billion Rising (OBR), marching and dancing in protest against women’s rights being violated, a room full of (mostly) men decided talks with a terrorist organisation were ‘first priority’ in the restoration of peace.
The same day, women in Afghanistan sedately participated in OBR, at the risk of engaging Afghan security officials armed to the teeth. That Afghanistan and the US would peddle away their fledgling freedom to the Afghan Taliban in a meeting in Doha was unfathomable for these Afghan women
I think allowing the TTP to bring their demands to the table is effectively signing off half of the country’s rights – the female half.  I think cowering in front of men who feel threatened by a young girl seeking education is the weak way out - the short term fix.
When you legitimise one group of terrorists, in the next elections, theAhle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) will not be the only banned outfit contesting the polls. We will lose the battle to the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Lashkar-e-Islam (LI), Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), and any other group which I have not named or which will mushroom by 2018.
What will you do, Nawaz  Sharif,when the radical right passes a legislation which makes it illegal for Maryam to leave the house on her own? What will we all do when a LeJ-spearheaded law declares our Shias non-muslims? Will you create a larger white margin on the flag?
The TTP brazenly take responsibility for assassinating Bashir Bilour, targeting Malala Yousufzai and a few days ago, were possibly behind blowing up four schools in Mohmand Agency. I cannot count how many schools they’ve destroyed over the past eight years. In Mohmand, that toll has already crossed the 100 mark.
The last time our right, left and centrist parties decided presenting our rights on a platter to the Taliban was a viable route to ‘peace’, 19 people died in militant attacks in the stretch between Bannu and Orkazai Agency.
So it would come as no surprise when the Taliban spox Ehsanullah Ehsan rejected our interior minister’s demand that a ceasefire should precede these ‘peace talks.’
They want ‘sincere’ religious men as guarantors – enter the religious right and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). I doubt these parties actually want the Taliban’s version of the Shariah, but in times of general elections, who would not want some militant might in their corner?
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) almost marched to the lion’s den to court the Taliban. How could anyone negotiate from a position of weakness with men hell bent on depriving everyone of their hard-earned freedom?
Maybe the idea is – push them back ‘up north’. Let the Malalas there be deprived of education, and the women lashed for speaking loudly in the marketplace. Let their economy go to a darker hell.
My guess is that the government and the military have lost control over their proxy ‘warriors’; it’s not a very educated theory. I’ve already established I am no expert. But when I see our politicians run around like headless chickens, with the military seemingly stretched thin, these negotiations seem nought more than desperate applications of a topical balm.
The All Party Conference’s (APC) declaration on Thursday might be an emasculated attempt to let the terrorists and electorate see some movement and interpret it as action.
Just look at a picture of those who attended these talks – mostly males and those with means to protect themselves with bullet-proof cars and guards siphoned from the security apparatus meant to protect you and me.
Let me assure you, no one will stand up against radical, extremist groups once they are sitting in our parliament. No one will stand up against Malik Ishaq whose witnesses tend to expire prior to the best-before date.
You and I, the women, we will not even be second-class citizens as we stand today. We will be chattel, livestock with household duties. Your naked feet will be guilty of provoking lust in ‘mere men’.
And the ‘minorities’ – their fates were sealed when they were confined to the margins of our flag (a shade darker than Islamic Green) by our great founding fathers. Presently, when Imran Khan condemns the LeJ as enemies of Islam after sectarian violence, he pegs it as a crime because it is anti-Islamic.
The way things are going, the day will come when the likes of the TTP, LeJ will be our ‘lawmakers’ and their narrow interpretation of ‘Muslim’ will be enshrined in the Shariah.
How will our state heads and party leaders make ‘brave’ statements against the murder of the Hazaras or blowing up girls’ schools when their ‘this-is-against-Islam’ leg would have been amputated?
That is what APCs, print or electronic coverage of abhorrent extremists guilty of mass murder, and “mainstreaming” terrorists will bring us as we shy away from “an all-out full-spectrum war” against the machinations of cancerous, rancorous  extremism.

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