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 Editor in chief: 
Abdus Sattar Ghazali

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November 13, 2013

Pakistan shelves talks with Taliban amid
controversy over martyrdom?

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Pakistan government has virtually abandoned the projected peace talks with the Pakistani Talibans after the killing of the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) leader Hakeemullah Mehsud in a US drone attack on November 1, 2013.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told the National Assembly Tuesday that no dialogue could make headway until the United States stopped drone strikes at suspected militant hideouts in the tribal belt.

He repeated his argument that a dialogue process initiated by the government as mandated by the Sept 9 All Parties Conference had been “sabotaged” by a Nov 1 drone strike that killed the Taliban chief.

The minister said that the drone attack didn’t target an individual instead it was an attack on peace process. He said that Taliban were willing to come to the negotiating table but the drone strike just 13 hours before the peace talks shattered the whole process.

He said he had told leaders of parliamentary parties earlier in the day that “we have to review the situation for the next three to four weeks” before deciding what to do next.

Who is a martyr?

The killing of Hakeemullah Mehsud in the US drone attack has not only resulted in the rupture of plans of peace talks with the Taliban but also sparked a heated debate on who is a martyr?

Syed Munawar Hassan, the Ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), a leading political party of Pakistan said last Friday that Hakeemullah Mehsud was a martyr while those fighting for the US cause inside Pakistan, including the military personnel, were not martyrs. 

Tellingly, not only religious parties, but also, some political parties’ leaders have similar sentiments.

 Maulana Fazlur Rehman, leader of Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam (JUI), another leading religious political party,  told reporters last week that “even a dog killed by America is a martyr.” He was asked if he considered Hakeemullah Mehsud, chief of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan killed in a US drone attack, to be a ‘martyr’.

Munawar Hussan's statement drew strong ire of the army which asked him to tender unconditional apology. In a statement the army condemned the remarks as ‘irresponsible’ and ‘misleading’, saying that declaring the dead 'terrorists' as shaheeds (martyrs) is insult of the sacrifice of thousands of innocent Pakistanis and soldiers of Pakistan's armed forces.

However, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Tuesday that those who have sacrificed their lives in fight against terrorism are ‘martyrs.’ Addressing army officers at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, PM Sharif eulogized the services of the Pakistan Army for the country, adding that army has always remained in forefront to meet challenges whether in peace or war time.

However, the Jamat-e-Islami, which is a coalition partner of the government of the volatile Khyber-Pakhtunkhwah province, remained adamant and rejected the army demand to apologize. 

JI: No two opinions on martyrdom

On Tuesday, Jamaat-i-Islami secretary general Liaquat Baloch told a press conference that when a political and democratic government was functioning in the country, the armed forces and their public relations wing ISPR had no right to serve a notice on the head of a political party or to issue a press release. This act, he added, was a violation of the constitution. “If the army had any concern over the issue it should have taken up the matter with the Ministry of Defense rather than directly seeking an explanation from the JI chief.”

He said the US was trying to provide a legal cover to drone attacks despite being aware of the Pakistani nation’s unanimous demand for ending them.

Baloch said former military dictator Pervez Musharraf, who had surrendered to the United States on a phone call, was responsible for the entire situation.  “The JI had consistently maintained that the US was at war with Islam and the Muslims after 9/11 and it was not lawful for any Muslim country to support this war in any way. The JI had consistently held this view and time and developments have vindicated its stance,” he said.

Baloch said the JI was firm on its principled stance and would not yield to pressure. The rulers, he said, had chosen a wrong path which had led to dreadful results for the nation. It is the time for the policy-makers to review their policies that have ruined the country and the nation.

Meanwhile, the JI leader explained the logic on which he considers Hakeemullah Mehsud as martyr while the Pak army soldiers who lost their lives in the current military operations in the volatile tribal areas, not martyrs. 

A Geo TV anchor asked Syed Munawar Hassan to explain if the Pakistan army soldiers who are killed fighting Taliban are martyrs or not. Hassan replied that nobody thinks that an American killed in this area is a martyr and if seen in this context, death of a soldier who serves American interests puts up a question mark for him.

He said if death of an American is a disgrace, how can his backer, be him an intelligence man or any other person, be called a martyr. He then went on to say that if an American is not martyr, then his backer is also not a martyr because they are chasing the same goal.

Munawar Hassan has strongly criticized the Nawaz Sharif government over the killing of Hakeemullah Mehsud. He said that the government conspired with the US and played a vital role in killing Hakimullah. He said that on clear-cut assurances of the government for a dialogue, Hakimullah surfaced from his hideout but at the same time the US in league with the government targeted and killed him. 

Tellingly, Munawar Hassan is not the only political leader who refused to give the status of martyr to the soldiers involved in the current anti-militant military operations. Few years back Maulana Abdul Aziz, the Imam of Lal Masjid in Islamabad said that no one belonging to the Pakistan Army could be given an Islamic burial if they died fighting the Taliban.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (