“Many are the things that man
Seeing must understand
Not seeing, how shall he know
What lies in the hand
Of time to come?”
–Sophocles, Ancient Greek
In any conflict resolution situation, the fundamental causes of the prevailing antagonism, hostility and political clash cannot be ignored. At this time of human civilization and intellectual-conceptual advancement in understanding sociology and humankind’s political behavior, the concept of “Conflict Revolution” has become almost a science. Precise political acts, the reactions to these political actions and their exact consequences can be correctly predicted by rigorous analysis and the rational-logical application of a “conflict resolution” paradigm.
An essential political-conceptual flaw in Pakistan’s successive governments to date has been to respond to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan political movement with considerable apathy to the fundamental causes of the discord. We, as a nation, are prone to impulsive, emotional and sentimental reactions to national challenges, dissenting opinions and political disagreements. We tend to focus more on our adversary’s reaction without giving due consideration and thought to what act or actions caused or triggered such specific reactions. On top of that, our national political managers in the political-military establishment have been responding to militants’ political orientation, challenges and threats with an “ad-hoc” approach instead of establishing a cohesive, consistent rational-logical and politically correct national policy.
Indeed, the entire nation is aware that much of our political ad hoc-ism vis-à-vis militancy is shaped by policies which are clearly detrimental to this country’s national interests. The time has arrived to remove these fundamental contradictions and political errors and go forward towards establishing permanent peace and stability in this nation. We need to move urgently and resolutely, with absolute disregard of foreign pressures, towards a national political reconciliation aimed at bringing all conflicting parties to an agreeable formula of mutual compromise, appeasement, pacification, and harmonization of national interests.
In order to initiate such a reconciliation process and a “conflict resolution” discourse, Islamabad (for that matter the entire nation) will have to develop an acute understanding of TTP’s violent reactions.
Consider for example, for a start: The overall political dimensions of the so-called US “war on terrorism” and Pakistan’s support of a foreign military interventionist policy against militants in its tribal areas. Pakistan had supported the Taliban’s struggle against the Russian occupation for their country’s liberation. And yet, a few years later, ironically and unjustifiably, we went all the way to facilitate a US and its allies’ invasion of this same neighboring, friendly Muslim nation. The Pashtun reaction in Pakistan to this kind of political contradiction should have been understood.
The question is: In retrospect, does Pakistan’s support of the US invasion of Afghanistan make any political sense? Afghan people and Pakistani Pashtuns (staunch Pakistanis without a shred of a doubt) have commonly shared historical and cultural customs, language, family relations and strong religious views. Are we virtually blind, deaf and dumb as a nation not to admit our successive government’s unpardonable apathy towards our Afghani brothers.
In order to jump-start a process of political reconciliation, Islamabad should offer an unconditional apology to all the non-combatants and their families who have been victims of US drones and should commit itself to providing financial compensation. Compensation should be made for physical disabilities and treatment needed for the victims and to the families of the disabled persons.
Islamabad should immediately go to the International Court of Justice and the UN General Assembly to seek an end to US drone strikes within Pakistan territory as an act of war against a sovereign nation. Indeed, the entire Pakistani nation has been demanding an end to drone attacks and the international community has been vocally challenging the legitimacy of US drone warfare in many parts of the world. It is time for Islamabad to legally and diplomatically engage the US at the global level to end its aerial warfare.
Islamabad needs to initiate a global media diplomatic public perception management process to pressure the US to end drone strikes on Pakistani territory. The US is a confused ally at the moment, sabotaging Islamabad’s efforts to make peace with its own citizens in the northern part of the country. Policy managers in Pakistan will have to highlight American contradictions to the Obama administration in Washington and seek the international community’s backing through diplomatic and public perception management control by international and home-based media involvement. Incidentally, a survey of opinions across 65 countries by pollster Win/Gallup International has reported that “as 2013 ends, a global poll finds that the country seen as representing the greatest threat to peace today is… the United States.” Interestingly enough, Pakistan, which the US has declared the most dangerous country on the planet , comes way behind the US (US 24 % - Pakistan 8%, North Korea, Iran and Israel 5%). That looks like a good start for Islamabad for a media-diplomatic blitz to put its case before the international community to pressure the US to alter its drone warfare strategy against Pakistani citizens.
A few more important facts for Islamabad’s political establishment and its leadership to remember: a Pashtun will never compromise on his/her religious views; a Pashtun carries a gun - but never uses it - unless it is in revenge - and revenge must come against an enemy; a Pakistani Pathan is as staunch a Pakistani as any other anywhere; a Pashtun’s faith in his/her cultural sensitivities, customs, traditions and community is indestructible come what may. There are lessons to be learned in understanding the Pashtun socio-psychology in their struggle to preserve their identity.
The British art critic and novelist John Berger once said: “Between the experience of living a normal life at this moment on the planet and the public narratives being offered to give a sense to that life, the empty space, the gap, is enormous.”
The writer is UAE-based academic, policy analyst, conflict resolution expert and author of several books on Pakistan and foreign policy issues. He holds a doctorate and a masters degree from Columbia University in New York.