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Peace with Taliban: ‘What has to be, has to be’

General Mirza Aslam Beg

There has been a spate of criticism, by a particular lobby in Pakistan, of all-parties conference (APC) decision for dialogue with the Taliban for peace. In the same context, I would particularly refer to the comments made by Najam Sethi in his article titled: بقا کی جنگ یا تباہ کن امن (Fight for Survival or yield to Destructive Peace) published in daily ‘Jang’ dated October 6, 2013. He is very emphatic about his judgment:فاٹا میں بھر پور جنگ ھی پاکستان کا واحد دفاع ھے۔ھماری سیاسی قیادت جتنی جلدی اس حقیقت کوپا لے گی اتنا ھی بہتر ھے۔ اس وقت امن ہمین تباہ کردے گا جب کھ فیصلہ کن جنگ ہماری بقا کی ضمانت دے گی۔  (A decisive battle in FATA is the only option for the defense of Pakistan. The sooner our political leadership gains realization of this fact, the better it would be. At this moment in time, seeking peace [with Taliban] would spell doom. A decisive battle, therefore, is the only guarantee for our survival.)

general_niazi_instrument_of_surrenderIt appears that some of us have not learnt lessons from our past ‘Battles of Survival.’ In East Pakistan, we used the army to settle a political issue. In less than six-month time, the army established the writ of the government over the entire territory. My general officer commanding (GOC) approached General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi that “it was time to restore the civil order and to start the political process.” General Niazi lost his cool and removed the GOC from command. As a result, we drifted till India delivered the coup de-grace.

In 1974, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto launched the army in Balochistan. By early 1975, the army had restored law and order. Bhutto visited my troops in April 1975 and addressed a large gathering of Bugtis, who applauded him. While driving him to the helipad, I asked him the same question my GOC had asked General Niazi. “Mr. prime minister now is the time to restore the civil order, and to start the political process.” He replied: “Yes, you are right. Very soon you will get the orders.” Those orders never reached us because he himself was overtaken by events of 1977.

In 2008, Asif Ali Zardari tasked the army to restore law and order in Swat, Dir, Bajaur, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan. The army established the writ of the government in those areas by end 2009. It is now 2013 and the democratic governments of the past and present have not yet come forward to establish the civil order and rule of law in these areas, which constitute almost 40 percent of Pakistan’s territory, and remains under the control of the army. And during this long period we have heard only one feeble voice of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister, demanding that army must be withdrawn from Dir and Swat areas. Nothing happened. Why then blame the army for the growing disorder, and again demand sacrifices from them for the failings of the government, enjoying perks, privileges, loot and plunder with impunity, while in the absence of civil order in these areas, under army control, the social order, with all its aberrations, remains in a state of drift because the army just cannot compensate for the civil order and the rule of law.

Why must Najam Sethi fear the establishment of the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan comprising 25 million Pakistani and 17 million Afghan Pakhtuns after the exit of the occupation forces? In fact, it will be the most natural thing to happen and will be governed by the demographic logic, i.e., the 25 million Pakhtun majority of Pakistan will maintain a strong pull over the 17 million minority of Afghanistan, thus further reducing the practibility of the Durand Line. Historically, the king in Kabul always needed the nod from Pakistani tribals to govern Afghanistan. That is truer even now when kings have been replaced by popular leaders.

I am surprised at the outburst of Najam Sethi, whom I had known for some time. He opted for Pakistan in 1963, not as a naturalized citizen, and soon established himself as a reputable journalist and writer, having revolutionary ideas. What happened between him and Nawaz Sharif later on, I don’t know because he was arrested on May 8, 1998 along with Hussain Haqqani for anti-state activities, and there were strong protests by the American Senate and the Indian Congress, and Nawaz Sharif was forced to release them within a few days. Hussain Haqqani’s credentials have since been established by the Memogate scandal, and he prefers to live in exile, whereas Najam Sethi has won the confidence of Nawaz Sharif, who appointed him as caretaker chief minister of Punjab and now he is heading the Pakistan Cricket Board. Why this sudden disenchantment with Nawaz Sharif on holding the APC, seeking peace with the Taliban of Pakistan, is rather amusing.

It is our tradition that if a member of a family of grownup children rebels for some reason, the family elders get together to settle the issue through advice and loving passion. We do not try to break the arms and legs of the rebel member or beat him to submission. That is exactly what the political elders of the APC have done for the Taliban, showing patience and forbearance to forgive and forget our angry young men and to bring them back into the family fold.

In fact, Najam Sethi is promoting the American agenda of imposing a two-front war on Pakistan, thus rejecting Quaid-i-Azam’s vision of entrusting the responsibility of guarding our northwestern frontiers to the tribals, who have done it admirably till we hit them in 2005. Since then, our borders remain infested with spies and scoundrels, carrying out all kinds of terror acts in Pakistan from across the borders. And behind all this misery is the evil of occupation of Afghanistan by foreign troops now humbled and defeated. They are on the retreat and the drawdown will bring peace in Afghanistan, supporting the peace initiatives of our political leadership. The search for peace is now an unstoppable phenomenon, as Quaid-i-Azam once exhorted the nation to win Pakistan: “What has to be, has to be”. This was his judgment for the direction he gave in the past and the nation has now chosen to find peace for Pakistan.

aslam_beg-1The writer is former chief of army staff of
Pakistan and 
can be reached at:

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