For Imran to be effective – Ayaz Wazir

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his political party, the PML-N, won the May 11 elections on the promises of resolving all the major crises the country is beset with. On top of the list of problems the party promised it would take on was that of militancy, which has crippled the nation.
Both before and after the elections speeches of the PML-N’s leaders portrayed Nawaz Sharif as the only leader seriously concerned with, and capable of speedily resolving, these issues. In other words, being the only one with the guts to take the bull by the horns.
But what has his government done so far when it comes to the core issue of militancy other than holding the APC and spending two long months in ‘preparation’ for dialogue with the Taliban? The nation is not privy to the details of these ‘preparations’ and no one in his party is prepared to comment on this either. The best one could gather from official quarters was that a three-member team was ready to initiate talks.
It appears as if the priorities of the government have changed or else some senior functionary of the government, if not the prime minister himself, would have visited Fata by now. Instead he and his team prefer to visit foreign capitals, invariably via London for reasons that are best left alone and not spoken of, rather than making serious and sustained efforts to address this burning issue.
Perhaps those capitals are considered nearer to Islamabad than Fata or maybe the visits are more important than setting one’s own house in order. And as usual Fata remains neglected and has again been relegated by this government, like its predecessors, to the bottom of the list. The area has been left to the army alone to handle as it pleases. Had Fata been in Punjab or in the red zone of Islamabad I am sure it would have received the priority it deserves.
One would have thought that, being a tribesman himself and also mainly responsible for Fata, the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would be more worried about the return of peace to the area than anything else. He should have insisted upon being an integral part of the negotiations had they taken place but he preferred to spend his time scurrying around to retain his job, being a nominee of former President Asif Ali Zardari.
The illustrious interior minister, claiming to have spent days and nights planning the strategy for the dialogue, put all the blame on the Americans for derailing the process by ‘droning’ Hakeemullah on the day the talks were to be held near Bannu. He did not dare breathe a word of the real reason for the breakdown of the talks.
With Mullah Fazlullah of Swat taking over as the new ameer there is every likelihood of a shift, if not split, within the TTP – of the focus of attention from Waziristan to Peshawar or from Fata to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the days ahead. That means that handling of negotiations will not remain the exclusive domain of the federal government but will have to be shared with the provincial government.
Even delegating a lead role to the provincial government should not be a matter of surprise to anyone if we are serious about resolution of this problem.
In such a situation the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, being an agent of the federal government for Fata and at the same time constitutional head of the provincial government, can play a crucial role if his services are properly utilised for handling the negotiations. If the present incumbent enjoys the confidence of both the federal and the provincial governments he should be entrusted with the job of initiating the dialogue with the Taliban. Otherwise, somebody new – acceptable to the provincial and federal setups – should be appointed.
The rationale for suggesting that the governor should negotiate is that he is the direct boss of the political agents in all seven tribal agencies and in that capacity can take advantage of their experience and expertise, in addition to the services of other agencies belonging to the province of which he happens to be the constitutional head. So without bending any rules or making any special provisions he will be able to deal with both (Waziristan-Fata and Swat-Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) by making use of all or any of these provincial or federal services he considers appropriate.
Irrespective of the fact that the leadership of the TTP has changed and Swat is again in the limelight, the epicentre of that organisation will continue to be Waziristan. One will have to simultaneously interact with both places, both controlled by two different governments.
Fata is controlled by the federal government sitting in Islamabad whereas Swat happens to be the responsibility of the provincial government in Peshawar. The binding factor between the two is the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It would thus be in the fitness of things if the two governments were to join hands to deal with this problem through the office of the governor of KP.
This brings us to Imran Khan whose political party is in a unique position. It governs the province and at the same time shares the office of the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the constitutional head of the provincial government.
Whether the party likes it or not it has to play an active role in future negotiations because without its involvement it would not be easy for the governor to contribute effectively. It would thus be prudent if the driving seat for the negotiations is given to Imran Khan to supervise and coordinate action with the federal government.
For Khan to be effective and successful he would be well-advised to take charge only if given assurances of unstinted support by all, including the armed forces and intelligence agencies working in the area otherwise his involvement will prove to be an exercise in futility.
Since this is a matter of concern for us all, it would be in the fitness of things if we listened to each other, trusted each other and benefited from the experience and knowledge of each other. It would not be right for one institution to take upon itself the responsibility of deciding who is loyal and who is not or who can be trusted and who is untrustworthy. Such an approach would be a recipe for disaster.
Let the matter be handled by those who are directly affected. That is the right way of finding a solution to this complex problem. Let us not make it a matter of false pride.