Can Khan help save Sharif’s peace plan?
However, amid all this gloom the cricketer-turned-politician, Imran Khan, is seen as a ray of hope and the only politician who could salvage the situation and save the country from further damage.
Many analysts are pinning their hopes on Khan, who after years of struggle finally managed to form a government in Kyhber Pukhtoonkhwa province, mainly because of his sympathetic attitude toward the Taleban.
The Taleban, though primarily from the seminaries of the scholarly politician, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, however, have changed drastically in their goals, attitudes and approaches, and are no more considered the baby of the radical rightwing party Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI), which the Maulana has been heading for a long time.
The Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP) is a loose-knit structure comprising over 60 different groups. Each of these groups has its own unique agenda and philosophy and is often seen trying to gain supremacy over the other. That had already posed a major problem for successive governments in Pakistan, who despite keen on negotiations with them, could not exactly pinpoint as whom to pick up for a proper response.
Former President and military strongman Gen. Pervez Musharraf, during his nine-year tenure, came close to achieving a breakthrough in his dealings with the Taleban almost twice, but was ditched by certain elements entering into peace treaties.
Zardari, who succeeded Musharraf, also met a similar fate. Now it is Sharif who is moving ahead with idea of talks with the Taleban.
Sharif, however, has adopted a better strategy by forming a national consensus on the subject. But the attack on the church in Peshawar — killing more than 80 and wounding 145 — have left him disillusioned.
In the aftermath of the church carnage, Information Minister Pervez Rashid tried to convince people with optimistic remarks assuring them that peace attempts will remain unaffected by the tragedy. Sharif, however, sounded more realistic in his approach by saying that the incident had hampered government’s peace plans. He made this statement while talking to media in London during a stopover on his way to New York.
A Taleban-linked group, Jundullah, has accepted the responsibility for the attack on the church. Prior to that incident, a two-star general, a colonel, and a soldier were killed in a mine blast near the Afghan border. The incident could have incited uneasiness in the army, but Gen. Ashfaq Kayani played a crucial role by not reacting. As the army’s reaction could have derailed even the possibility of any peace talks with Taleban.
Now that a major disaster has stirred uproar among minorities, and an obvious sympathetic wave in the form of violent agitation among overwhelming Muslim majority, the government woes naturally have enhanced manifold.
In such a bleak backdrop, Imran looks the only option, capable of influencing the Taleban who have reposed trust in him in the past. But the PTI chief’s insistence on first, halting the US drone attacks in northern areas, will have to be softened. Whether Imran would accept that, to take upon himself the responsibility of bringing the gun-wielding guerillas to the negotiation table, appears pretty difficult at this stage. Nevertheless, he is the only hope the country can count on. Maulana Fazlur Rehman — has lost face after his party’s defeat in his hometown of Dera Ismail Khan in the recent by-elections — and several other pukhtoon religious leaders, with strong connections with these primitive looking soldiers in the former North-Western Province, may not even dare approach them for peace talks with the government. Nawaz has a tough job at hand, for he had publicly committed to try all other options first before resorting to military operation to flush out the terrorists from his country. Prospects are currently dim, but even the remotest chance has to be availed.
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