London 30th June 2014 (The Debate)
Press TV has conducted an interview with Shahid Qureshi, journalist and political analyst from London, to discuss the Pakistani army launching a major offensive against pro-Taliban militants in North Waziristan.
What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.
Press TV: Do you think, first of all that the campaign launched by Nawaz Sharif government now, entering a new phase, will be a successful one?
Qureshi: Absolutely, the government has already planned this for over six months and as today former DG ISPR (Director General Inter-Services Public Relations) has confirmed that they had all the plans to do in the operation in 2010 which was further delayed.
So, as far as the military is concerned, they have already planned all these homework to do this operation. So, it is a very precise, well-thoughtful and well though through operation which will filter out and drain out those terrorists who are placed, who are hiding in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) areas.
As one of your speakers, he says, “they are fighting their own people,” no, no, no, this is not a fight with their own people. This a fight with the terrorists coming from all over the central Asia and other countries who are hiding in these areas and as I said last time that they are about forty-five different types of groups infighting under the umbrella of TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan) which is sponsored by foreign agencies and international terrorist and criminal organizations.
So, we need to understand that this is not an organization which is supported by the Taliban fighting in Afghanistan because Taliban fighting in Afghanistan are fighting legitimate UN recognized resistance against the occupation. But they do not have this kind of, similar kind of situation in Pakistan. Pakistan is not in occupation of any kind but these terrorists have been killing civilians and innocent people and bombing stations and markets. So, this is a completely different type of war which Pakistan army is fighting at the moment and the nation is standing behind them.
Press TV: For those who are critical about this operation, they are also saying that while North Waziristan has been a historical stronghold for militants, violent extremism now has strong footholds elsewhere in Pakistan, they say some of the bloodiest attacks in recent years being targeting, for instance, minority Shia Muslims claimed by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group as you well know based in the southern Punjab province. They are saying unless steps are taken to tackle these groups, there is no guarantee that the wave of the violence destabilizing Pakistan will abate?
Qureshi: As it has been understood and widely reported, the ethnic and sectarian element in Pakistan was never been before the Russian invasion in Afghanistan and that is part of the strategy of the Indian agencies wherein widely involved in ethnic and sectarian violence in Pakistan.
So, this Shia and Sunni element was never been in Pakistan. This is not the society’s response to each other. This is the foreign agencies involved in Pakistan and funding this kind of sectarianism. And this sectarianism is widely seen in Iraq, in Syria, in Bahrain and other places. That was never been the case thirty-forty years ago. So, it is an external phenomena which has been used the differences to fight the two people with each other.
So, now it is a time for wise people to sit down and understand what is this reason behind it? Could it be what happened in 2006 between Hezbollah and Israel? Is it to do with that? What is the real target of this sectarian violence between Shias and Sunnis in Pakistan?
So, this is a very very important thing that instead of blaming each other, it’s very important to sit down and look at that.
Press TV: In those comments (of the viewers) we heard accusations against Afghanistan, India, Pakistan’s ISI and the United States. Who would you blame for the creation of this problem? Who would you hold responsible?
Qureshi: I think it’s a very good question. The international players have used Pakistan as a battleground since 1979 Soviet invasion, Pakistan has been a victim of the international conspiracies whether in terms of the international war against the Soviets and then the war against the terror.
We have about three million refugees living in Pakistan from Afghanistan. Now we have about five million in early displaced people as a result of this international intervention in Afghanistan.
So, Pakistan has been suffering for the last thirty-five years or more due to the policy adopted by the West and with the help of the some treacherous elements in Pakistan who let that happen and continuously allowing this to happen to the people of Pakistan who are suffering. I mean, there is no one in Pakistan to stand up and say that enough is enough, we have nothing to do with this war in Afghanistan. There was not a single person in the 9/11 attacks from Afghanistan or from Pakistan. Why Pakistan and Afghanistan and other countries are suffering of this terrorist incident happened in the US, which we don’t know who is actually responsible for it. We don’t have clarity about it.
With regard to the sectarian conflict within Pakistan, it is very important that it should be intellectually discussed and agreed that what are the factors, which the enemies of both Shias and Sunnis are using and playing it against each other.
It can’t be left to the mullahs of both sides to debate and decide the narrative and I think it is very important for countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and other countries to sit down and straighten through the historical narrative so we can have a peace in the region.
Shias and Sunnis don’t have any problem for more than fourteen hundred years and all of a sudden in 1985 they started having all of these problems.
So, somebody to sit down and not the mullahs, it’s an intellectual discourse must happen and these historical narratives should be straightened up, ironed out and people should be told what is the way forward because either side fighting with each other is the loss of the same body. This is how I see it and this is how many people see it.
Press TV: First of all tell us that if you agree that the government is not treating the people in North Waziristan as it should considering the refugee crisis there and whether there is still hope for negotiated settlement.
Qureshi: I think one should understand that Taliban in this area are some forty-five different types of groups and there have been a good people, pro-Pakistan people who have been… and criminals and drug dealers involved in these groups. So, one should differentiate between these two type of people.
FATA is 1.5 percent of Pakistan and it is very important to filter out these terrorists and criminals out of Pakistan to have a peace in the whole region and it is very important that the use of legitimate military force when the nation is standing behind the armed forces is very very important. On this occasion, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is standing behind the armed forces and so is the whole nation.
As far as the refugee issue is concerned, they are internally settling down with their families. We have been hosting three million Afghan refugees. Pakistan is the highest number of refugee hosting countries according to the UNHCR report [published last week.
We are suffering from the international interventions in our region. We are paying the price of the international interventions in Afghanistan and other areas. Pakistan is the victim of international conspiracies and Pakistan needs full assistance in terms of sorting out these problems. Pakistan needs not to be blamed for the whole problems the whole world is facing. The whole thing is the other way around. The Pakistan has been suffering; the economy, the people, the human losses, their children, women, all suffering because of the policies adopted by the United States and its allies in Afghanistan and needs clearly to be understood.
(Dr Shahid Qureshi is senior analyst with BBC and editor of The London Post. He writes on security, terrorism and foreign policy. He also appears as analyst on Al-Jazeera, Press TV, MBC, Kazak TV (Kazakhstan), LBC Radio London. He has written a famous book “War on Terror and Siege of Pakistan” published in 2009. He is PhD in ‘Political Psychology’ and also studied Law at a British University)