Since almost a decade we have been hearing from assorted quarters in religious and political circles that Taliban have been doing what they have been doing because ‘America attacked Afghanistan”. Politicians as tall as Imran Khan, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and various others, have been feeding the nation with this narrative for many years now. It is however, a minor detail that Mr. Khan was hand-in-glove with then dictator General Musharraf in 2001-2002, when he backed ‘America’s attack on Afghanistan’. It is also a minor detail that the ‘attack’ was sanctioned by United Nations to a multination alliance we know as NATO. Never mind.

But just when I’m writing these lines, I hear that the terrorists and killers (who were recognized as ‘stakeholders’ by the current government supported by ‘all parties’ including Pakistan Army are part of this so-called All Parties Conference) have issued their 15-points Charter of Demands (CoD). The Charter does not even refer to the ‘attack on Afghanistan’. Surprise!

Going by the reports in media, the demands include: 1) Stop drone attacks; 2) Introduce Sharia law in courts; 3) Introduce Islamic system of education in public and private schools; 4) Free Pakistani and foreign Taliban captured in jails; 5) Restoration and remuneration for damage to property during drone attacks; 6) Handover control to local forces; 7)Withdrawal of army from tribal areas, shut down check posts; 8) All criminal allegations held against the Taliban be dropped; 9) Prisoners from both sides be released; 10) Equal rights for poor and rich; 11) Families of drone attack victims be offered jobs; 12) Amnesty for all Taliban commanders wanted by the government; 13) Stop supporting the US on the war on terror, end relations with the US; 14) Replace the democratic system with the Islamic system; 15) End interest based system of banking.

They start with demand to end drone attacks. Why? They certainly have no particular respect for human life considering their glorious track record of playing with the blood of thousands of innocent humans in the name of Sharia. Drones must be proving fatal to their existence. Similar pain for their comrades could be seen in Points 5 and 11 of their Charter whereby they demand restoration & damages for the properties of and jobs for the families of drone victims. Please note the absence of such sensitivity towards the victims of their bombs rocking the cities of Pakistan since last almost a decade. Wouldn’t it sound fair if the government of Pakistan demands damages and blood money for 50,000 Pakistanis killed by these so-called ‘stakeholders’?

The next two demands ask for Islamic system in courts and schools. Although nothing un-Islamic can ever get to both these institutions under the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan (emphasis added).What then, they mean by this? For a clue, let’s go back to the Taliban years in neighboring Afghanistan. Girls were barred from going to schools permanently. A year ago I met one of their apologists, then serving in ISI, who enlightened me about this order of Taliban regime by justifying it on the pretext that no resources were available for girls’ separate schools, hence the measure by Taliban.

If people didn’t want their daughters to be in co-education schools, why did they put them in these schools in first place? If their daughters’ education was more important for them than lack of separate girls’ schools before Taliban came, why did Taliban mess with their personal priorities? Although there are no co-ed schools running in FATA, their Pakistani comrades have been regularly bombing girls’ schools. Seems their Sharia prohibits girls’ education in stark contradiction with Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) teachings.

About Sharia in courts, the lesser said the better. The kind of justice seen under Taliban regime in Afghanistan would put Huns, Tartars and Mongols to shame. Personal choices of women, like work and dress of women and of men, like how much and where to shave unwanted hair from, were most pressing issues for the regime. Barbarism was synonym to justice in those days. Many apologists of those days keep regurgitating the praises for the ‘exemplary peace and rule of law’ under Taliban. Just that most of civilized people won’t agree with their definition of peace and rule of law. Just like absence of guns is not peace, absence of citizens’ rights is not rule of law. Justice was rushed and crushed in the name of ‘speedy trials’ by Fazlullah’s in his previous job at Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi in Swat. He is now CEO of another terror corporate, TTP that regularly engages itself in arson and kidnap to generate funds. High profile kidnappings of the sons of Shaheed Salmaan Taseer, Yousuf Raza Gillani alongside various others are cases in point.

The Charter reiterates Taliban’s demands to free their apprehended comrades in Points 4, 8, 9 and 12. They want killers of thousands to be freed, all charges on them be dropped and general amnesty for those wanted by law of the land. The script is so familiar and has been played on Pakistan so many times by these glorified killers. After every so-called peace agreement between them and the state of Pakistan since 2004, at least a dozen times so far, these killers have been released only to hit back innocent people. It is still a riddle how amnesty to killers is ‘Islamic’ and what treatment the assassins of thousands would get under Sharia demanded by CoD?

Their Point 4 however, is their admission to a fact that we have been trying to bring in debate over many years. There are foreign criminals and terrorists working on Pakistani lands, given complete patronage and support by all kinds of Taliban – good and bad. In fact, it was aptly put by Major General Ghayyur Mehmood, General Officer Commanding, 7-Division of Pakistan Army in his statement in 2011. Gen Mehmood clearly stated that most of the casualties of US drone strikes in FATA hit foreign militants. A claim that ISPR never contested.

Is it a rocket science to guess what the amnesty for these terrorists would bring to Pakistan? Their admission to the presence of foreign terrorists weakens Pakistan case among the international community wherein our state has been quite confidently rejecting such a possibility. Geostrategic implications of conceding to this demand are more complex and detrimental to Pakistan than political apologists of Taliban as well as most of the analysts and TV shows’ anchorpersons would have us believe.

Rest of the Points in this CoD demand for a banking system without interest, which is already in place in Pakistan’s banks. Another point demands equal rights for poor and rich, which the constitution of Pakistan already guarantees. Point 13 demands end of all diplomatic relations with the USA and calls for Pakistan to stop supporting USA’s War on Terror. With continuous frictions with NATO and the USA on drone strikes as well as on their ‘do more’ demand, Pakistan is hardly being an ally in truer sense of the word. In any case, the state of Pakistan must do everything in its power to stop the flow of terrorists from or to its lands. No dictation on this should ever be acceptable to us. Nor should we accept any dictation on our foreign policy even if it comes from the proverbial ‘non-state actors’ who are now ‘stakeholders’. We are being coerced conceding a distorted and convoluted version of their personal sharia. Choice remains ours. Get them, or get eliminated.

The writer is an Islamabad based campaigner for human rights and works on parliamentary strengthening and democratic governance.

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