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EDITORIAL: There has been an uptick in attacks by violent extremists operating mainly from safe havens in Afghanistan. In an intense exchange of fire with the security forces on Wednesday in the Asman Manza area of South Waziristan tribal district five terrorists were killed; seven soldiers also embraced martyrdom. The so-called Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed it had attacked the security forces. A couple of days before, a soldier embraced martyrdom and four others were wounded when their vehicle struck a landmine in the same district. Earlier this month, the TTP had taken credit for a suicide bombing on an FC check-post on Quetta's Mastung Road. Four FC personnel lost their lives and 18 were injured in that attack. The militant outfit has also issued a statement holding out a threat to journalists to stop using the term "terrorist" for them or prepare to be treated like "enemies". All this confirms the apprehension expressed by many that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan would inspire fanatical extremists on this side of the border to up their game.

The Afghan Taliban unconditionally pledged not to allow any extremist group to operate in that country to launch attacks into other countries. Yet instead of sorting out the group causing trouble in Pakistan the advice they have offered is to negotiate with the TTP, an anathema to all civilised people considering their heinous crimes. This country thus has been presented with a situation from which there seems to be no escape. Willy-nilly the government has come around to accepting the advice of its 'friends' in Kabul. In a recent interview with a British newspaper, The Independent, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said if the TTP promises not to get involved in terrorist activities and submits to the Constitution, the government will be "open to giving" them a pardon. "If those guys come and start creating problems for us over here", he reasoned, "it will affect innocent lives and we don't want that." A few days earlier, President Arif Alvi had also hinted at giving TTP an amnesty. This will cause great public outrage, especially among families who have lost their near and dear ones in suicide bombings and gun attacks. They would not want to forgive vicious, heartless men who planned and executed those murders by the thousands. Distraught parents of the 132 children, whose lives were brutally cut short by the TTP along with 17 others in the December 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, have been running from pillar to post to seek accountably of the perpetrators of that appalling atrocity. They still have not stopped asking why and how the captured TTP spokesman could make good his escape to Turkey.

There is no easy way to deal with this difficult issue. In order for things to be less risky any amnesty must be conditional. The President had suggested amnesty should be given to only TTP members not involved in "criminal activities" and those willing to lay down their arms and agreeing to adhere to the Constitution. Even so, unless properly reoriented and rehabilitated these people could have disruptive influence on society, already swayed by retrogressive forces.

The matter is too sensitive to be decided by the government alone. It needs to engage with the opposition parties in Parliament to arrive at a consensual solution.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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