Yasmeen Aftab Ali
Those having read Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ would have been sorely reminded of him in the past few months. For those who have not read it; here’s a brief run-down. Hamlet was the Prince of Denmark. His father, the King was murdered. One night, in his dreams, he is visited by a Ghost. The Ghost looks very much like his dead father and tells Hamlet that his murderer is no other than the King’s brother himself; Claudius. This brother murdered the King later taking over not only the throne but also marries the brother’s wife Gertrude. The Ghost incites Hamlet to avenge the murder of his father by taking Claudius’s life.
Hamlet, facing an uphill responsibility is plagued by his indecisiveness. He is shown to be overly analytical. Analyzing options upon options but being unable to take a decisive action. Interestingly, one of the reasons for this may be his own reasoning based heavily on religion. His focus on achieving the end of Claudius is overshadowed by his confused thinking of its methodology. Eventually, he realizes that in order to achieve his goal, he will have to take some risks. The turnaround comes when he hears opinions by others who feel that either Hamlet should take revenge for his murdered father or go for an all-out war against Claudius. It is this struggle within Hamlet that leads to the deaths of many characters in the play, though he does manage to kill Claudius, eventually.
The plot of this drama was built up on Hamlet’s indecisiveness that takes the play forward, but what is happening on ground in Pakistan, in terms of acts of terrorism is very much real and no play. Just as Hamlet had to put aside everything else in his life in order to deal with Claudius, our government too must prioritize to make terrorism its main challenge to be tackled.
The talks with the Taliban had stalled. Many predicted that the talks will fail as the militants are ‘buying time’ as they have done in the past. The society stands divided over this issue. Taliban is opposed by a huge segment of moderates yet supported by some on grounds of ‘ideology’ and by some because it fights the United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan; a dangerous posture as it may tend to ignore what actually the Taliban stands for. The failure of recent talks may have been a result of a) An uncompromising list of demands as a pre-condition to beginning talks by Taliban and b) Reporting of every ongoing step or lack of it in media, making rigidity of positions inevitable.
Whether or not Taliban were serious in the process has also been analyzed, “Analysts said the Taliban wanted to start the talks but then prolong them, believing that while talks were underway the government would hold off taking any major military action against the group.” (NYT February 4, 2014) This may well be true and attacks and killings by Taliban never stopped when there was an effort to hold talks- in one incident executing 23 soldiers in the tribal belt. Jets of Pakistan air Force have attacked the Taliban hideouts on many instances since, as a result.
A local newspaper reported, “As Pakistan’s military braces for an expected targeted crackdown against the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and its allied offshoots in North Waziristan Agency and other parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), the issue of the TTP militants fleeing to the other side of the border makes a thorny area to step onto.” (February 20, 2014) There is cognizance of the fact that the target is a moving one, definitely not stationary. The same report goes on to share, “A number of high-valued TTP commanders including Fazlullah are said to have taken refuge in Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nuristan provinces.”
The twist in story came as military operation got underway. A predictable twist if I may be allowed to state. Taliban announced a one month temporary ceasefire. A report in a local newspaper states, “The government has formally announced to stop air strikes against militants, reciprocating Tehrik-I-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) declaration of a month-long ceasefire to resume peace talks.” (Published March 02, 2014) However, government retains “reserve the right to respond to violent attacks”.
There are both pros and cons of this temporary ceasefire, needing dispassionate analysis. First; is destroying the hideouts in FATA and elsewhere enough? Will the Taliban pose as willing targets like a sitting duck? Or, will they scurry to other habitats? Have the routes been secured to stop this exit? If not, is the destruction of hideouts sans majority of Taliban and their leaders on Pakistani soil, good enough? Second, with networking across borders, access to state-of-the-art weapons and training, funding from vested interests; it will be a long haul. The factors that are the cause of their strength must be addressed. Third, should the uphill nature of the task lead to shying away from taking the bull by its horns? A very crucial question here that must be closely viewed is whether the Taliban have agreed to ceasefire in order to deflect military operation aimed at gaining time to recoup and attack more viciously? Should this be the case, no amount of sincerity on part of the government will deliver. It does take two to tango after all! Another question; were the surgical strikes themselves meant to bring about heat on the militants aimed to bring them to the negotiation table? In order to talk, government must be seen as a strong stakeholder willing to take action against miscreants. Talks after inflicting heavy damage will make the opponent more willing to accept the writ of the state than without. How the government deals with the multidimensional issues that will arise should the talks continue will depend heavily on the Taliban’s perception of the government’s strength- and their own! The outcome of ‘peace talks’ after ‘one month ceasefire’ needs a hard look. What exactly is hoped to be achieved here by both? The outcome desired may be at odds with each other? What then?
The war we fight is not a traditional one, Pakistan must think of diverse tactics in order to deal with terrorism; out-of-box solutions with traditional ones. I am reminded by what Hamlet said to Horatio, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Good advice for our government and military strategists!
The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ Her mail ID is firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets at @yasmeen_9
NOTE: This article is a cross post from’Pakistan Today’ where it was published on March 4, 2014