After two weeks of deadly clashes that resulted in the death of seven policemen and several others seriously injured, the negotiating team appointed by the government finally announced that they had reached an agreement with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). They however refused to divulge any details of the deal with the extremist group.
What are they trying to hide and why? It is presumed that the ban on the TLP will be lifted. Many of their leaders and workers have already been released. It has reportedly been decided that no further legal action will be taken against any member of the TLP. The PTI government has once again capitulated to the street power and terror of an obscurantist group hellbent on achieving their political objectives through violence and blackmail.
Pakistan has been the epicentre of violence unleashed by a number of terrorist groups claiming to be champions of Islam and waging jihad for the glory and supremacy of the religion. During the last two decades, Pakistan has suffered over 80,000 deaths and thousands of people were injured in terror attacks claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) other fanatic groups affiliated with it.
After the tragic attack on the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar in 2014, it was decided that the mantra of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban would finally end. And full might of the state was unleashed on the religious militant groups under the banner of the National Action Plan (NAP) crafted as the country’s 20-point counter terrorism strategy. This armed response by the state resulted in the defeat and withdrawal of many militant groups while the top leadership of the Taliban took refuge in Afghanistan under the protection of the Afghan Taliban.
This armed offensive pushed militant groups into hiding and disturbed their extensive networks in the urban and rural areas of the country. Since then, the country’s major cities were spared the scourge of religious terror but the head of the snake was never crushed. With the victory of the Afghan Taliban and their control over Afghanistan the hydra-headed monster of religious bigotry and fanaticism appears to be awakening after a long slumber — thereby threatening the peace and existence of the country once again.
Pakistan has a long history of religious intolerance, bigotry and militancy. It was in the 1990s that Islamic militancy erupted violently on a large scale in Swat and Malakand, Dir and Bajaur. Maulana Sufi Mohammed, an illiterate cleric, established an Islamic militant organisation by the name of Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-i-Mohammadi — that is a movement for the enforcement of the Islamic Sharia laws and his fanatic disciples started an armed uprising against the state of Pakistan.
This uprising headed by Sufi Mohammed and supported by his son-in-law, Maulvi Fazalullah, who later became the head of the TTP was brutally violent. Anyone opposing the Taliban’s barbaric system was killed. Some leaders of this group had close ties with Al-Qaeda including Osama Bin Laden’s deputy, Aiman Al- Zawahri.
Maulvi Fazalullah declared war against the Pakistani state after the military assault on Lal Masjid in 2007 to put down an armed movement trying to impose Taliban style social values on the country. At this stage the firebrand son in law of Sufi Mohammad, Maulvi Fazalullah, became the main militant leader in Swat and his followers ruled the roost in Swat and Malakand.
After the abject surrender of the state, the militant group of Sufi Mohammad tightened their grip on the Swat valley. They unleashed a reign of terror. Killing and beheading politicians, singers, soldiers and all those opposing their draconian laws.
In 2009, the then government capitulated to the terrorist group and agreed to enforce Islamic judicial system in the Swat valley and surrounding areas. Legal sanctity was given to this illegal act by adopting the Nizam-i-adal resolution (NAR) by the National assembly. The entire assembly voted in favour of the resolution and the only sane voice of dissent was the MQM and Ayaz Amir of the PML-N who had the guts to vote against it.
After the abject surrender of the state, the militant group of Sufi Mohammad tightened their grip on the Swat valley. They unleashed a reign of terror. Killing and beheading politicians, singers, soldiers and all those opposing their draconian laws. Female education was banned and hundreds of schools were destroyed. Tens of thousands people fled the area becoming refugees in their own country leaving the militants in complete control of the valley.
The ‘peace deal’ signed with Sufi Muhammad fell apart within a few months when he announced his refusal to accept the constitution of Pakistan and said that Pakistan Army should now enforce Sharia in the rest of the country. The army deployed troops in October 2007 and used artillery and gunship helicopters to take control and establish the writ of the state once again. Sufi Mohammed was arrested and Mullah Fazalullah managed to escape and took refuge in Afghanistan.
History repeats itself. This rather murky and mysterious deal between the government. and the TLP appears to be a repeat of the 200 deal with Sufi Mohammed. This agreement was signed after detailed talks between the government team headed by Mufti Muneeb Ur Rehaman and comprising Shah Mehmud Qureshi, Asad Qaiser and Ali Mohammed Khan of the PTI. The TLP team included Mufti Ghulam abbas Faizi and Mufti Muhammad Amir, Mufti Umair, Alama Ghulam Abbas and Hafiz Hafeez. Mufti Muneeb hailed the agreement as a victory of Islam and told the media that the talks were held in an independent, serious and responsible atmosphere without any duress and praised the contribution of all religious leaders.
Imran Khan and his regime is well known for their sympathies and soft corner for the religious militant groups like the TTP and others. History is a witness that all peace deals signed with the religious militant groups have resulted in chaos and bloodshed. The government is not prepared to divulge the details of this agreement with the TTP even though the National assembly has not briefed on the details. We can only hope and pray that this time the extremists will honor the agreement they have signed.