EDITORIAL: Looking ahead with Turkey - Saturday, April 16, 2011

President Zardari arrived in Turkey on Monday for a four-day official tour to do what presidents do: enhance country-to-country relations, strengthen bilateral ties and focus on promises of cooperation, aid and development. In this, his meeting with his Turkish counterpart is by no means out of the ordinary. However, there are also different agreements being made and important developments in the offing to set the stage for a more stable Pak-Afghan region. News has started seeping out that, in this meeting, both heads of state have agreed on the need to end the war in Afghanistan and help bring negotiations to fruit. For this, it is being reported that President Zardari has expressed the willingness of Pakistan in backing any move by Ankara to open an office of the Afghan Taliban inside the Eurasian country.

This proposal had initially been floated by Turkey at the 5th trilateral summit between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey in December 2010. Turkey has long been looking forward to enhancing its feel-good ties with war-torn Afghanistan, the latter seeing the relatively developed Turkey as a neutral force in a never-ending theatre of foreign intervention, occupation and — in Pakistan’s case — interference. Turkey has always been vocal in developing initiatives to stabilise conflict-riddled Afghanistan, as it expressed in a press conference with President Zardari on Wednesday. Therefore, what better way to help ease the attempts at negotiations with the Afghan Taliban — a step all parties, including a dishevelled US, are willing to take to begin the troop withdrawal and transfer process come 2014. It is well known that no matter what the final settlement in Afghanistan, the Taliban leadership will have to be given a role in the new set-up. It is because of this reason that Turkey is willing to extend its hand to the Taliban and offer it political legitimacy by way of an office on its soil, and Pakistan is ready to offer its support.

It is hoped that it is just this kind of recognition and legitimacy that the Taliban are looking for when it comes time to decide the future of Afghanistan. However, there is a very fine line between giving the Taliban what they want and offending them. The Taliban were once in virtually unchallenged power in Afghanistan and ruled the country with an iron grip. This once dominant element has now been knocked to the periphery and feels excluded and targeted by the very elements that claim to want to negotiate with it. It is unclear whether this gesture, made by Turkey and backed by Pakistan, will be accepted by the Taliban. Until and unless the core Taliban leadership is involved, consulted and put onboard in any effort to include them in a post-US Afghanistan, these generous overtures might as well be pie in the sky.

After this endorsement, it is vital that steps towards ensuring peace are worked on in a determined manner. It is necessary for Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan to find the right interlocutors to help convey and convince the core — and willing to integrate — Taliban leadership to help bring this initiative off the ground.

Turkey has always been a friend to both Pakistan and Afghanistan. It has aimed at revitalising ties between both countries. It is hoped that, for the sake of peace, the Taliban agree to this very reasonable and sincere effort. *


The security situation of the country has dominated the findings of the annual report of the Human Right Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) for 2010. From drone attacks, suicide bombings, the situation in Balochistan to attacks on minorities, all these incidents are manifestations of a peculiar doctrine adopted by the security establishment of Pakistan that, on the one hand, nurtured non-state jihadis to be used as proxies in neighbouring countries for strategic purposes, and on the other hand, brutally suppressed local dissent. Those jihadis have now turned against their benefactors and unleashed a reign of terror on Pakistani soil. Year 2010 saw a series of attacks on shrines and other ‘soft’ targets. Balochistan has seen disappearances and targeted killings of political and social activists at the hands of the country’s security forces while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal areas have become a battleground of militants and the military in which local populations have been displaced or become targets of crossfire.

Arguably, the pursuit of the elusive ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan is very much on the security agenda of Pakistan, despite the fact that the people of this country have had to pay a very high cost in terms of life and property, militarisation of society, rising intolerance for any kind of dissent or difference of opinion, and attacks on minorities. Pakistan saw the worst attack on Ahmedi worship places last year on May 28, which killed nearly 100 worshippers who had congregated for Friday prayers. The HRCP report presents other harrowing details of mistreatment of minorities at the hands of militants, the state, and society in general in different parts of the country. The public attitude of indifference and persecution of minorities is replicated at the level of the state.

In this climate, it is but natural that those holding a monopoly over force abuse their powers and indulge in human rights violations. The issue of extra-judicial killings in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has caught international attention. This is a very sad picture of a country that invests heavily in defence at the cost of millions of disadvantaged people but remains an essentially insecure and fragile state. It is time the movers and shakers of this country did some introspection and considered if this was what the Muslims of united India took the plunge for and carved out a separate country? *

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\04\16\story_16-4-2011_pg3_1

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