Quran & Sunnah / Ramblings O'mine

The TTP problem: To Talk or Not to Talk!

Why can’t we as a nation approach issues in a “structured” manner? Why is it that every time we face a problem the only solution we come out with is a product of outright panic and lots of dithering? Why have we convinced ourselves that none of the problems that beset us might have a solution in the archives of history; or that no amount of thinking whatsoever may reveal a clear and precise solution? Secularly, do we live on Mars, in that nowhere on Earth have people ever met with the demons we confront! Or religiously, are we the practitioners of a new creed that has spawned insoluble puzzles the answers to which could only have been provided by Prophets but they left us high and dry! Obviously, neither is the case. Let me take you through a very brief detour (brief, as in 1 paragraph) down the memory lane so that our incontinent ‘jumpiness’ can be replaced by a stabilizing feeling of ‘BTDT’ (Been there, Done that) to begin with.

Khawarij – a ‘group’, or more accurately, a ‘type’ of people – have been foretold by our beloved Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). Parchments of his sayings are rife with the vivid details of their characteristics. Prophecies that they would “over-do” what Islam bids us to do[1], in the style of an ornate allegory was an exact metaphor for the buzzword these days i.e. “extremism”; and that they would have criminal fixation with Muslims in particular[2]; and that they would recite and quote the Holy Quran frequently[3] but would misinterpret it by a long shot[4]; and that they would be young in age and foolish in thoughts[5]; all of these graphic descriptions should have been factored in by us by now. Finally, he also spelt out what is to be done with them[6], because we, in our misplaced sentiments of compassion might not want to. Such a people emerged in the time of Ali (رضي الله عنه). They declared our venerated Sahaba as apostates, held them in violation of edicts of the scripture, and started killing them barbarically. But despite crystal-clear injunctions, in fact incentives, from no less than the Holy Prophet himself, Ali did not out-rightly plunge into war with them: They were engaged in a debate; Their doubts were sated; Their misinterpretations of the scripture were laid bare; Even on the final day of the battle, Ali offered general amnesty for the ones who repented. As a result, war did take place, but only with a few of them, as exegetic-cum-conciliatory efforts had borne fruit and most, yeah most, of the zealots and “sincere” discontents had been reconciled.

Now back to the front! IMHO, TTP is an isotope of the same group. Many a scholars have argued them to be the exact same entity, pound for pound, and God knows there are stark resemblances between the two that any student of religion cannot miss. That, however, as a cumulative assessment, would be downright unjust; unjust and naïve! Incognizant of a laundry list of the State’s blunders and dismissive of some of their sensible demands. Neither are we as Shariah-compliant and morally-correct as the Sahaba, nor all of their demands Khawarij-identical. Does this then legitimize them, or a no use of force scenario: Certainly not! But these, sure as hell, are extenuating circumstances. Let me separate out the delicate solution that I’m implying here; and that is: We’ll have to fight, but we want to talk!

Nations use force against their citizens because they have to; not because they want to and certainly never only because they can. It must be the last option, after exhausting all other options; and this conclusion is the result of excruciating deliberations by thinkers around the globe. Experience also agrees with this verdict. The only alternate argument validating use of force as a first option is when a problem is inchoate, in its infancy, for this is when the problem hasn’t established any roots yet. That ship sailed away long time ago for us; the line drawn by proponents of such a use is now a dot to us. Moreover, we shouldn’t be so reckless as to disregard the religious nature of this problem. We can’t be so inane as to handle it as a routine insurgency, especially since doing so has only amplified its reach and intensity. But religion aside, from a purely secular point of view, those chanting “Off with their heads” incessantly either overestimate the capabilities of militaries (especially ours, despite such “splendid” history) or underestimate the latent perils of an all-military solution. I wonder if these advocates have studied Russian escapades in Chechnya, or American in Afghanistan; or perhaps pondered on the consequences of use of force only “because I can” mindset – Musharraf did it in Lal Masjid: look what it did to us! Or is it that like Nietzsche warned, while fighting monsters we have become monsters?

There are other reasons with opponents of talks: One is that we have already gone down that road, but it was a dead end; they are an insatiable lot. Let’s assume it is true – and the skepticism is genuine, because the exact mechanics of this past exercise are still pretty much shrouded in mystery, and contended by many – fruition could have eluded us due to a myriad of reasons. Maybe our diagnosis was wrong; maybe the dosage of medicine was miscalculated; maybe the treatment was indelicate; and just maybe (but surely) we had our fingers crossed the whole time. Is amputation always the only remaining option after the first possible attempt at cure fails? You try a different curative treatment, maybe a different doctor; do whatever you have to do to prevent a cure as horrific as amputation. And in our case, once the disease is no longer restricted to a particular area, but spread to almost all parts of the body – permeating our towns and cities, transcending our kith and kin, brother and sons – time for a simple surgery is long gone. Can’t we see that “their” ideology has not only gripped swaths of our underprivileged religiously charged country-dwellers, but has also possessed many a highbrowed highly educated romanticists: like doctors, engineers etc.? They aren’t villains in their own sights, they never are – especially in this particular case, to them they are doing God’s work; and any opposition only serves to strengthen their resolve and thereby belligerence. So are we willing to keep fighting a never-ending war, not in some far-flung air-gapped bastion of insurgency, but our own streets and cities? Because, ideologies rooted in religion (may they’ve been misread), that too in the Quran, a book that we all Muslims endorse as God’s Word, you can cut its branches day and night, unless uprooted altogether, this tree will never stop bearing fruit. But yeah, you’re absolutely right in assuming a dead end: if by “talks” you mean the same dim-witted half-hearted negotiations you resorted to earlier. But as would transpire shortly, there’s world of a difference between these appeasement-centric facetious “talks” you allegedly conducted and the religion-centric solemn ones I’m proposing!

Two, and this argument is even being leveled by acclaimed visionaries (no pun intended) like Talat Hussain in our media, that military action is the way to go, right away, because it has been tested before and it produced dividends, like in Swat, for instance. I guess the veracity of this argument would vary with the vision of success one has. But if that is the limited vision of success we are vying for, then I can only but sulk at the shortsightedness of our intelligentsia. IMHO, again, I think that we are allowing our better judgment to yield to our impulses. Perhaps, our overwhelming desire for an “immediate relief” is forcing us to undervalue a “lasting peace”. A drowning man does catch at a straw, but only if he would be wise enough to make that extra effort, to just hold his breath for a tiny bit longer, and head straight for that firm plank floating just nigh to the straw, he’ll assuredly save himself from the risk of drowning permanently. Nobody, at least nobody compos mentis, is denying the possibility of a military action; but leading with that……absolutely reckless! The landmarks of “success” that is driving this opinion is “no success” in case of guerilla warfare! It causes not but a mere inconvenience to the enemy. And just by the way, what about their illustrious devotees, lone gunmen and sleeper cells running amuck in our cities? How can we possibly wean them off their self-assumed “Quranically-correct” agenda except through an intellectual debate!

Then there are those who have pinned all their hopes on talks; perhaps because they believe, earnestly believe, that this option will pan out. Well, I love their optimism, I really do. In a perfect world, it would be something to die for. But herein, in this imperfect world, order is not kept with sentiments alone. No matter how true our standpoint is, no matter how sincere our endeavors may be, there is always that person who believes so strongly in his psychotic interpretation that we can only kill him to convince him otherwise. The proponents of this view still believe that since this “anomaly” spawned from persecution and victimization, therefore righting their wrongs would placate, or wishfully, sate them. While there are much reasons to believe that their birth might have been legitimate and a direct result of our own misbegotten strategies, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the “anomaly” has not mutated into something entirely different. Just like ugly ducklings grow up to become beautiful swans, benign moles can transform into deadly tumors. A series of unfortunate events and a chain of our servile decisions did give rise to them, but this reactionary movement gradually relocated to much “firmer” grounds. They recognized the fragility of foundations built on mere discontentment, and sought out a sturdier base. They found it, ostensibly, or the Al Qaeda helped them find it, in the Holy Quran. They knew they could not indulge in or carry on a fight with Muslims, much less garner support of religious enthusiasts, while considering us Muslims. So they have done exactly the same interpretations that Khawarij did: translating a “literary” book “literally”. How can we overlook their communiques issued from time to time, and those issued following every deadly attack, in which they try to legitimize their cause? Have we not even leafed through them? Our entire Army is now “Apostate” to them; our state is a “Heathen” state; and hence, any and all public servants, LEAs, and even all taxpayers according to some, are ipso facto [7] “مباح الدّم” for them. Then is their extreme prejudice for Sects? What sects? It is their way or the highway! I am not asking the simple souls harping on this opinion in our media, like Ansar Abbasi etc., to scrape off any semblance of compassion from their hearts for them; I’m only beseeching them not to allow their emotions to rule their judgment. Talks must be done, and if done properly, I am certain will reel in many, if not most, of the devout zealots: I believe so to; but demagogues and their henchmen, addicted to power, have never in history willingly doffed their mantle. This minor infection is now a Stage IV Cancer; it is too late now, as highlighted earlier, for a simple surgery – it just won’t do; but there is no escape from chemotherapy – a multi-faceted carefully laid out treatment plan…… and it WILL involve poisoning some parts of the body!

I hope I have been able to syllable out the delicate path that lies betwixt these two hard positions. We must talk; we want to talk to these “mistaken” brethren in faith; because we owe it to our Lord, our compassion, but most of all to our craving for a lasting peace in the future. We must talk so that we can uproot, as opposed to merely hedge, the problem. We must talk because there is no other way of “getting through to” the sincere enthusiasts – dwelling in sleeper cells amidst us incognito, devoting themselves to a perceived sacred cause – except through their hearts. We must talk so that we can save as many of our prodigal sons as possible from an impending annihilation. But most importantly we must do it with all our sincerity and truthfulness. Critics are underestimating the power of truth; we must not. Our sincerity should be unquestionable and obvious this time around, even if theirs is not.

Yet, no matter how sincere and optimistic, we cannot escape reality. There could’ve been no other entity more sincere than the Sahaba, but at the end of the day, they also had to fight. Our benevolent Holy Prophet too has rationally decreed it, because he knew such an illness is rarely curable. Hence we’ll fight because we’ll have to; not to sate our drooling urge for a hostile-takeover, but only if they disregard our honest and elaborate efforts towards clarifying the Quranic verses they have catastrophically misunderstood, and themselves choose to fight. We’ll fight only after our scholars, particularly Deobandi scholars, will themselves have seen our due diligence to attain a peaceful solution. The life of a muslim is holier than the Ka’ba, we will not allow anybody to slay it at will. Hence, once we’ll have to fight, if we’ll have to fight, it should be with itchy trigger fingers, just like our Holy Prophet ordered! We should not try to be more compassionate than God’s beloved one…

I wished to dilate the modus operandi and subject matter for these talks, but perhaps in another tranche.


[1] “يَمْرُقُونَ مِنَ الدِّينِ مُرُوقَ السَّهْمِ مِنَ الرَّمِيَّةِ” they will go out of the religion as an arrow darts through the game | Bukhari – http://sunnah.com/bukhari/88/13; Muslim – http://sunnah.com/muslim/12/192

[2] “يَقْتُلُونَ أَهْلَ الإِسْلاَمِ وَيَدَعُونَ أَهْلَ الأَوْثَانِ” they would kill the followers of Islam and would spare the idol-worshippers | Muslim – http://sunnah.com/muslim/12/188

[3] “يَتْلُونَ كِتَابَ اللَّهِ رَطْبًا لاَ يُجَاوِزُ حَنَاجِرَهُمْ” would recite the Qur’an frequently, yet it would not go beyond their throats | Muslim – http://sunnah.com/muslim/12/189

[4] “يَقْرَءُونَ الْقُرْآنَ يَحْسِبُونَ أَنَّهُ لَهُمْ وَهُوَ عَلَيْهِمْ” would recite the Qur’an thinking that it supports them, whereas it would be an evidence against them | Muslim – http://sunnah.com/muslim/12/204

[5] “حُدَثَاءُ الأَسْنَانِ، سُفَهَاءُ الأَحْلاَمِ” “i.e. young in age, immature in thoughts” | Bukhari – http://sunnah.com/bukhari/66/82

[6] “فَأَيْنَمَا لَقِيتُمُوهُمْ فَاقْتُلُوهُمْ، فَإِنَّ فِي قَتْلِهِمْ أَجْرًا لِمَنْ قَتَلَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ” “i.e. wherever you find them kill them, for in their killing is a great reward for whoever kills them (i.e. the reward would be conferred individually – such a statement serves to entice each soldier) on the day of reckoning | Bukhari – http://sunnah.com/bukhari/88/12

[7] Permissible for killing – an apostate, according to almost all sects of orthodox Islam, is to be killed.

4 thoughts on “The TTP problem: To Talk or Not to Talk!

  1. Just about right about everything here you are sir. The context of history, the diagnosis of the present day evolved khariji-ism, the balanced and realistic approach towards a solution of the problem – all put forward in a very direct, unambiguous and unequivocal manner. I wish I Could see such a balance – and not rightist-extreme or leftist-extreme – everywhere else on the horizon. Great piece sire. Kudos for that.

  2. i generally agree but in the modus operandai first thing we need to do is to show that our state is not a heathen one. we will only show sincerity in our talks once we will be able to tell them that look we are trying to change in to a true muslim state we have changed our economic system we have suitably tailored our constitution now you you come join us to make it a more true Muslim state. but only talks without correcting our state even with all the sincerity of making wont do it (as my perception) may not be true

  3. again read it and this time it make more sense but now its time to clearly identify where things has gone wrong in present peace process may it be wronged at every step than what would have been correct things like one thing came up from IK that talks should have been led by PM or things like that

  4. Pingback: مذاکرات کا صحیح طریقہ | My Musings in Urdu

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