Pakistan on the Taliban: “Dialogue must now be the highest priority”

Pakistan’s parliament has unanimously passed a 14-point resolution on combating the rise of terrorism and extremism. The document is being hailed by Information Minister Sherry Rehman as a “major signal for terrorists that our nation rejects their agendas,” but it falls short on a plan to confront the Taliban and al Qaeda’s grip on power in the violent northwest.

The resolution was passed by parliament at the end of a two-week-long joint session where the main focus was the deteriorating security situation in the country. After numerous briefings from senior leaders in the military, intelligence services, police, and government officials, a panel made up of representatives from Pakistan’s 16 major parties drafted the agreement.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the pro-Taliban chief of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, was a member of the panel. Rehman was described as “a spokesman for Taliban” during the parliamentary debate.

The government aimed for “consensus” to grant legitimacy to the resolution. To get it, Rehman had to sign the agreement. This led to a vague resolution that does not define the “extremists” and “militants,” and places the emphasis on talks.

The 14-point resolution is long on calls for negotiations and short on calls for action. The document stresses “dialogue” while barely making mention of the need to dislodge the Taliban through a concerted counterinsurgency campaign.

“Dialogue must now be the highest priority, as a principal instrument of conflict management and resolution,” the document states. “Dialogue will be encouraged with all those elements willing to abide by the Constitution of Pakistan and rule of law.” The resolution has no discussion of what to do if dialogue fails.

While Pakistan “stands united to combat this growing menace,” it is to be done through “a strong public message condemning all forms and manifestations of terrorism….” The government is asked to restore its writ, immediately withdraw the military from the region and replace them with local security forces.

The parliament said Pakistan cannot be used as a launch pad to attack neighboring countries, and that “foreign fighters, if found, shall be expelled from our soil.” In a reference to recent US strikes in the tribal areas, the resolution says Pakistan’s territorial integrity must be protected at all costs.

The Pakistani government has touted the resolution as a major achievement. “The October 22 resolution is a new chapter in the parliamentary history of Pakistan,” said Rehman. “After a long time, this is a major national policy that has the endorsement of all political forces … all parliamentary forces arose above party lines to put a united front against the most important threat to our national security and the resolution closes the chapter on any ambiguities on this issue.”

Full text of the resolution, from the Associated Press of Pakistan:

This in-camera joint session of Parliament has noted with great concern that pose a grave danger to the stability and integrity of the nation-state. It was recalled that in the past the dictatorial regimes pursued policies aimed at perpetuating their own power at the cost of national interest.

This House, having considered the issue thoroughly and at great length is of the view that in terms of framing laws, building institutions, protecting our citizens from violence, eradication of terror at its roots, re-building our economy and developing opportunities for the disadvantaged, we all commit to the following:

1.That we need an urgent review of our national security strategy and revisiting the methodology of combating terrorism in order to restore peace and stability to Pakistan and the region through an independent foreign policy.

2.The challenge of militancy and extremism must be met through developing a consensus and dialogue with all genuine stakeholders.

3.The nation stands united to combat this growing menace, with a strong public message condemning all forms and manifestations of terrorism, including the spread of sectarian hatred and violence, with a firm resolve to combat it and to address its root causes.

4.That Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity shall be safeguarded. The nation stands united against any incursions and invasions of the homeland, and calls upon the government to deal with it effectively.

5.That Pakistan’s territory shall not be used for any kind of attacks on other countries and all foreign fighters, if found, shall be expelled from our soil.

6.That dialogue must now be the highest priority, as a principal instrument of conflict management and resolution. Dialogue will be encouraged with all those elements willing to abide by the Constitution of Pakistan and rule of law.

7.That the development of troubled zones, particularly the tribal areas, and NWFP (Pukhtoonkhwa), must also be pursued through all possible ways and legitimate means to create genuine stakeholders in peace. New economic opportunities shall be created in order to bring the less privileged areas at par with the rest of Pakistan.

8.That a political dialogue with the people of Balochistan, the redressal of grievances and redistribution of resources shall be enhanced and accelerated.

9. That the state shall maintain the rule of law, and that when it has to intervene to protect the lives of its citizens, caution must be exercised to avoid casualties of non-combatants in conflict zones.

10.That the federation must be strengthened through the process of democratic pluralism, social justice, religious values and tolerance, and equitable resource sharing between the provinces as enshrined in the Constitution of 1973.

11.That the state shall establish its writ in the troubled zones, and confidence building mechanisms by using customary and local communities (jirga) and that the military will be replaced as early as possible by civilian law enforcement agencies with enhanced capacity and a sustainable political system achieved through a consultative process.

12.That Pakistan’s strategic interests be protected by developing stakes in regional peace and trade, both on the western and eastern borders.

13. That mechanisms for internal security be institutionalised by: paying compensation for victims of violence; and rehabilitate those displaced from their homes as soon as possible; that spill-over effects of terrorism be contained throughout the country and that public consensus be built against terrorism through media and religious participation.

14.That a Special Committee of Parliament be constituted to periodically review, provide guidelines and monitor the implementation of the principles framed and roadmap given in this Resolution. This House authorises the Speaker to constitute the said Committee in consultation with the parliamentary leaders of both Houses. The Committee will frame its own rules upon meeting.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Gringo says:

    The umpteenth plus one failed truce: on the way.
    Enough of this game we have been playing with Pakistan these seven years.
    Time to tell the Pakistanis two things: 1) quarantine, including shutting down their airports; and 2) green light for whatever India wants to do.

  • AAndrew says:

    Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
    I guess that kind of wisdom hasn’t made its way to the Pakistani parliament yet.

  • TS Alfabet says:

    This strikes me as the ‘Hopeful Ostrich’ Strategy.
    The Pakistani people & govt cannot, yet, bring themselves to face the terrible reality of AQAM in their country. They seem to be clinging to the fiction that there is some element of AQAM that can be reconciled to the govt. and is willing to assimilate and peacefully co-exist with the rest of society. It would tell us alot about this state of mind if we knew the substance of the briefings that the military and ISI gave to to parliament. Were the briefings accurate and blunt or did they minimize the dangers and strengths of AQAM?
    From looking at the language in the Resolution, a few things stand out. First, the idea of “revisiting” the strategy against terrorists and developing “an independent foreign policy.” This can only be aimed at the current state of semi-cooperation with the U.S. and the desire of the govt. to cooperate even less. This is echoed in #4 where the govt. is urged to protect against incursions by outside forces (i.e., U.S.). Second, the reiteration that Pak territory will not be used as a base for attacks against other nations (does this include Kashmir?) and that any “foreign fighters, if found, shall be expelled…” This is simply not serious. “If found,” is the world’s largest loophole when the govt. is not looking for the foreign fighters. This is the terrorist equivalent to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”: as long as you don’t flaunt your training camps, we won’t bother you.
    Before we condemn Pakistan for this obvious denial of reality, we should consider our own situation and state of denial. Just 7 years after the 9-11 attacks, America is in similar denial over Hirabi terrorism. The popular myth is that the Iraq war was a mistake and that, somehow, if we could have just stayed focused on Afghanistan and put Bin Laden’s head on a pike, everything would be fine and dandy. Pakistan is certainly headed for a rude awakening, but so is America as we increasingly revert to 9-10 thinking.

  • Private Finch says:

    It seems strange to see the Pak-gov in such a state of denial. They keep making the same agreements with the same terrorist who they invited into Pak. They gave them the border area with Afghanistan. The terrorists keep making the same empty promises and buying more time to overthrow the Pak-gov. Can they be this stupid or are they all bribed? Maybe it is time to play the ‘India card’ and cut a deal with them.

  • bard207 says:

    TS Alfabet
    Maybe I am wrongly applying an American mindset to the Pakistani situation, but I wouldn’t need a military briefing to get motivated & serious if I was in the Pakistani Parliament.
    Various incidents in Pakistan off the top of my head in roughly the past year.
    1. Suicide bombing attempt on Benazir Bhutto with 130 – 140 people killed. Her murder not long after.
    2. Miltants expanding beyond their previous areas.
    3. Threats against those dispensing the Polio vaccine.
    4. Attacks around the Kohat Tunnel and at least one attempt to damage it.
    5. The destruction of numerous Girl’s schools.
    6. The sectarian violence in the Kurram Agency (Parachinar area) with hundreds killed.
    7. The suicide bomb attack at the Wah munitions facility.
    8. The recent suicide attack on the tribal jirga or lashkar in the Orakzai area with over 80 people killed.
    9. Some of the members of the NWFP government don’t feel safe there and are living elsewhere.
    10. The diplomatic community is uncomfortable about safety & security and is pulling out families and thus implying Pakistan is a dangerous country.
    If any two of the above happened in the U.S., I doubt that negotiating Peace Deals would be direction we would take. For all of the above (and more not mentioned) to happen in Pakistan and the Government still wants to cut Peace Deals is stunning and tragic.
    Even if the Parliament had resolved to authorize the Army to do whatever it takes to win, it would be a difficult struggle. This looks like a White Flag from my POV. By the time that Pakistan realizes the Terms, it will likely be too late.

  • remoteman says:

    The Pak government has little choice at this point other than to offer platitudes. The alternative is all out civil war, and there does not seem to be the unity within the Pak military nor between the Pak military and the government to make this a viable option.
    Things will have to get much worse to force the focus/will required to have the central government extend real control over the tribal areas. When Fazl is hung from a lampost rather than being a part of the meeting, then you will know the time of Taliban/AQ terror within Pakistan is coming to an end.

  • TS Alfabet says:

    Great points, bard, but not yet ready to concede.
    I’m not sure that I can go toe-to-toe with your good examples of terror attacks in Pakistan, but let me attempt to make an apples-to-apples comparison.
    The attacks by islamic radicals in Pakistan is difficult to translate into the American context, but there are two factors to consider: first, our own record against radical Islam is hardly one to boast about. Imagine how a Pakistani might look at America today.
    Until 9-11, the American government was not only willing to turn a blind eye to terrorism but went out of its way to pluck both eyeballs out (for example, the Gorelick “wall of separation” between the CIA and FBI, i.e., absolute prohibition against sharing basic intelligence about known terror suspects between agencies; the repeated attacks by Iran or Iranian-sponsored groups against Americans abroad since 1979 to which the American response has been… a profuse apology by a sitting President in 1993?, inaction, empty bluster, the prospect of unconditional talks; declaration of war against U.S. by Bin Laden in 1992 followed up by repeated terror attacks (1st WTC bombing, embassy attacks, USS Cole) met with a criminal prosecution approach. After 9-11, the U.S. finally responded with vigorous action but in 2006, just five years after that horrific attack, the American people voted in a majority to Congress and Senate who did everything they could to cut off funding for troops in Iraq and force an immediate pullout and stymied any possible action against AQ. If you can believe the national polls (which is an open question), a large portion of the American population is tired of fighting the enemy and we have a major political party calling for conciliation and appeasement of Iran, Hezbollah, Russia, Syria, Hamas and a variety of Latin American dictators.
    How would that Pakistani think of America’s commitment to fight against the hirabis? 40% of the American people are committed, 40% are against it and the other 20% can’t seem to make up their minds. Is that so different than the politics of Pakistan right now?
    Second: what if America had been attacked, not by Islamic radicals but by domestic terrorists, say radical Mormons or radical Leftists? In fact, it could be argued that Pakistan’s approach is far better than ours when you consider that the enemy in Pstan is largely themselves. It is a rare population that can squarely look at members of its own community and, essentially, declare war on itself. We are asking the Paks to declare war on fellow muslims who have very good propaganda and make a convincing case to their fellow Paks that Islam mandates that they struggle against foreign domination by any means necessary and the govt should be under sharia law etc…. (I am absolutely NOT agreeing with this, but just pointing out that to the average Pakistani it is very difficult to wage war against your religious brethren, especially when they have been fed on a steady diet all their lives of anti-Americanism).
    Imagine if the U.S. federal government was corrupt, run by one party/dictator for years and threatened basic religious liberties of say, the christians. And imagine if those christians decided to resist those violations by force and the U.S. govt responded with force. Right or wrong, there would be a certain amount of sympathy in the country for the actions of the christians. Look at the Civil War as another example. In the South today, more than 100 years later, there is still widespread sympathy for the Confederacy. To alot of Southerners, the Confederacy wasn’t about protecting slavery but the right of states to dissolve their bonds with the Union.
    All this is to say that the Pakistanis are in a mess but one that is not unique to them. Before we roundly condemn their half-hearted and ineffective efforts we should take a hard look at our own lack of resolve in the war against terror and our own history of ambiguity when it came to domestic insurrection.

  • ST333 says:

    Attempting to strike a peace agreement from a weak and losing position…riiiiiiight…That’ll probably work well for the Paki Gov’t. Though they continue these futile efforts at peace, it’s a little heartening to see the report saying we will be training the Frontier Corp. Training them to go in a fight the proper way may take time but it’s far more realistic then thinking you will establish a peace agreement with your enemy who has no need to strike a deal with you.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 10/24/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  • bard207 says:

    TS Alfabet
    You gave a solid post and unfortunately it took several decades for the US to get interested in pushing back hard against the militant variety of Islam.
    If we go back to the late 1970’s and the takeover of the American Embassy in Iran, that was a sad situation. I read the story of the failed rescue mission and it seems that the plan would have worked if they had a different force composition than what they went with.
    Until 9-11, I doubt that the US had enough internal support to go on an aggressive campaign like
    we did in Afghanistan. The first attack on the World Trade Center should have raised the threat level much higher than it did, but unfortunately not. The dual embassy bombings in Africa should have been enough to spur us into action, but we stayed soft and paid for it with 9-11.
    The political party that you speak of was in charge of the Executive Branch during the embassy
    bombings, so a similar mindset a decade later is not surprising to me. An overall drift to a European perspective on the world which is OK for the short term, but bad in the long run.
    I would think that the Pakistan population would have a different POV on fighting the militants
    is because of their close proximity on a regular basis. The US has had violent attacks against it
    such as:
    1)the two WTC attacks
    2) two embassy bombings
    3) Cole attack etc.
    The militants are not able to maintain regular training camps and standoff the Army in the US like they are able to do in Pakistan. The militants aren’t attacking on a regular basis and sometimes holding sections of I-10 in the US like they do against the Kohat highway in Pakistan.
    In regards to not wanting to fight fellow Muslims, the people in Pakistan and other Islamic countries want to have it both ways.
    When there is criticism from around the world (non Muslims) about the violent actions of the militants such as suicide bombings against innocents and other heinous acts, Muslims say that those actions go against Islamic teachings and can’t possibly be done by True Muslims which means they are calling the militants

  • NS says:

    As some one from India, I have to say this – nice going TS Alfabet, Bard207 et al.. very good posts.. very conducive to debating and sharing each other’s views without being nasty/spiteful.
    LWJ is now probably the best place to have a good debate on the WOR. It’s a thrill to visit this site.
    I will just add my 2C’s – it is very possible that Kashmir is going to come back to the center stage with in the next 6 months in the context of the Pakistan-Afganistan war.Unfortunately this would be another way to appease Pakistan to buy their co-operation in the fight against the Taliban – but given how American people have shown that they dont have the stomach for a long and protracted war against Islamic terrorists, I dont see anything else happening.
    This could possibly lead to a temporary friction in Indo-American ties which are now the friendliest since the Cold war (especially with the recent signing of the civilian nuclear deal.)
    Does this mean that there is no hope of an Anbar Awakening type of scenario in NWFP? With the passing of every day and every feckless resolution in the Pakistani Parliament, I am afraid so.
    So where does the US go from here?

  • Render says:

    Winter is approaching fast.
    They do this every winter.
    Nobody (that lives there) wants to fight in the cold.


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