By Haq Nawaz Khan –
“The foreign elements are the biggest hurdles in the way of peace negotiations”
Muhammad Afzal Khan, known as Khan Lala, 87, is a veteran politician and legendary Pashtoon nationalist leader from Pakistan’s northwestern scenic valley of Swat.
Khan Lala is a soft spoken and humble politician who has been struggling for Pashtoons’ rights and democracy for decades. He has served as member of provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and National Assembly and also as a former federal minister during Benazir Bhutto’s second tenure 1993-96.
He attracted world appreciation and attention when he stood against the Pakistani Taliban in Swat and never abandoned his native town even in the worst of times. He survived more than 4 attempts on his life during 2007-09.
How peace process in Pakistan will succeed?
Peace process will bring the required results, if both parties, Taliban and government, show seriousness. I am a supporter of peace talks with Taliban but there should be a temporary ceasefire from both sides. Taliban should also stop bomb blasts and target killings if they want talks. How it can be possible that you are killing us and attacking our armed forces and also expect calm from the other side. This is not possible. I have seen recently some press statements from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan asking the government to prove its seriousness and sincerity but I ask why are they not stopping their attacks? Taliban are claiming responsibility of every single bomb attack and target killing. So, what does this indicate?
In the given circumstances, how peace talks can be carried forward?
No doubt, the talks will be successful but Taliban should come up with solid demands that fall under Pakistan constitution. What do they want? Changes in the laws, compensation and withdrawal of criminal and terrorism related cases. Both sides should show their cards, what is possible and what is not.
But there must be no attacks during talks. Killings and talks cannot go side by side. Pakistani constitution is Islamic and the system is democratic. So, what else they have on their agenda?
Where do you see the hurdles in the way of talks?
Pakistani Taliban fighters are the citizens and they can demand from the government, but I wonder what Uzbek, Tajik and Arab militants want as foreign nationals. They belong to Muslim countries and should go back to their countries and struggle for their rights there, not here. The foreign elements are the biggest hurdles in the way of peace negotiations.
Some right-wing leaders like Maulana Fazlur rehman, Munawar Hassan, Samiul haq and Imran Khan are opposing any targeted action against the militants, terming it as under pressure from U.S.?
They are only issuing statements and no practical step has been taken by these leaders. I think we are unfortunate as the militants are attacking us, our security people and our installations but we still are confused to say whether this is our war or someone else’s.
Imran Khan is pushing the government for talks? What are your views about him and his stance?
Imran Khan is a confused person. He was campaigning till recently against the military operations in the tribal areas but the other day he announced to fully back the armed forces if they go against the militants. What is this? It is a clear contradiction. We should make it clear that Pakistan army is our national army and not an occupying force. It has to take any action against the attackers. We have to make it clear that this is our war and we have to deal with it.
The writer is a journalist based in Peshawar