Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement is financed and operated from abroad: Senator Lt-Gen (retd) Abdul Qayyum
In an interview with Naya Daur Media, Senator Lt-Gen (retd) Abdul Qayyum shares his views on regional and regional issues.
Q: How do you see the situation developing in the Strait of Hormuz and how Pakistan should deal with it?
May God forbid that things reach a point of no return between the US and Iran. But Iran is very important for us as it is an Islamic country and an immediate neighbour. We want unity in the Muslim world. We have pretty strong relations with Saudi Arabia as well and I think Pakistan is in the best position to reduce the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and unite them.
Secondly, America’s animosity with Iran is unfortunate. America has ruined Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and it would be better if they don’t commit any further blunder. I was reading a column of an American journalist who said that America is decaying because of its own blunders.
If things rile up in the Strait of Hormuz, it will dry up the oil supplies. I am Chairman of Pakistan-Iran Parliamentary Friendship Group. I put in all my efforts to make sure that there is no misunderstanding between Iran and Pakistan while making sure that Pakistan sticks to international law. But Iran has to look into its role in the Middle East as well which heightened tensions with Saudi Arabia.
Right now Iran’s economy is being strangulated by US. We want to talk about Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline and enhance our cooperation as far as trade and commerce is concerned. But unfortunately, it is the sanctions that US imposed that hinder that. We hope and pray that the way Obama engaged the Iran, the present US regime treads on the same path otherwise Pakistan is a third world country and has its own economic troubles.
To enhance our economic ties with Iran, barter system is also something that we can look into considering we can’t use the banking channels owing to US sanctions. We need oil and Iran can provide that at our doorstep.
Q: Don’t you think we over rate ourselves when it comes to negotiating between KSA and Iran keeping in mind our financial dependence on Kingdom?
Our ties with KSA don’t revolve around financial assistance. They are much deeper than that. Though we are grateful that they have been there for us whenever we needed them, what we have with the Kingdom is ideological harmony and strategic partnership.
Also we have given commitment to them that we will defend Haram-e-Kaaba if there is an attack. I have also spent two years in their land forces from 1985-1987.
They place their trust in us and we do the same. As far as the success regarding bridging gaps between KSA and Iran, it all depends on the statesmanship of Imran Khan and the leadership in Pakistan.
It will be a test of not only their statesmanship but of their audacity and intellect as well. It is a difficult but not an impossible task and I hope Imran Khan manages to the distances between two Muslim countries.
Q: Now coming to Yemen. General! It seems as if we have got blood on our hands there because we have been providing military assistance to Saudis who in turn are bombing schools, hospitals there?
See it is a wrong perception that Saudi Arabia is dependent for its military needs on Pakistan. There are only a handful of Pakistanis who provide their military with technical training. All of their weaponry is imported from USA. We have a very humble contribution in the professionalism of their armed forces. They come and train in our academies and we go there as well.
When this whole Yemen issue began in the first place, KSA did wish for Pakistani armed forces to join them but we refused to do that on grounds that it is neither in our or their interest or even in Muslim Ummah’s interest that we step foot there.
So coming back to your point we have got no role in what is happening in Yemen and we don’t have blood on our hands. We are against any kind of conflict but at the same time we support Saudi Arabia’s right to self-defence. If rockets are fired from the other side that reach Riyadh then what should the Saudis do. I think both Iran and KSA need to show restraint and sit on the table.
Yemen just like Afghanistan has a history of civil war. Responsibility to not flare up sectarianism lies on the shoulders of both the countries that are involved there. Where Saudi Arabia seems more concerned because they share border with them (Yemen) and If there is an intrusion from that side, Saudi Arabia has a right to defend itself.
Q: General! Right now there is a movement going on in the peripheries called Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement. How do you see that? Are we God forbid headed towards another Bangladesh?
There is no question of secession with the grace of God. Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement is not domestically-motivated movement. It is financed and operated from abroad. Though the faces steering this movement are local and they are not traitors, the enemy will sprinkle people in their ranks that will aggravate the situation.
Pashtuns are brave people and our pride. More than 80,000 Pashtuns are part of our armed forces. They had a major role in freeing the part of Kashmir that we administer. They have made huge contributions on all fronts, be it the war of 1965 or 1971.
There is no doubt about their commitment to the national cause but enemy wants to introduce rift between us.
I have repeatedly said that there is no military solution to this problem. We should engage with them. Two of their representatives are in parliament as well, but if there is proof against them that amounts to treason then they should be treated accordingly by law.
They should be given a fair deal. There are some of their demands which they put forward just for the heck of it like clear mines and their claims regarding missing person.
Who wouldn’t want to clear mines? Our military also gets affected by them. Secondly! As far as missing persons are concerned some of them are in Afghanistan being trained by India.
So again these things can be sorted out on table through dialogue and there is Alhamdulillah no question of secession at all. We are a strong country with a strong military backed by our people.
Q: But you cannot deny that tribal Pashtuns didn’t suffer?
Yes! We cannot deny that tribal belt suffered a lot. Since the time of British it was a no go area and there wasn’t any development in the area. Later the belt enjoyed an independent status. Also successive governments after partition didn’t invest in their health and education.
Not to mention the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, their withdrawal which was followed by sanctions from US and then the US invasion of Afghanistan – you need to realise that Pakistan already had enough on its plate but we still sacrificed a lot to bring tribals out of crisis and suffering. Nearly 70,000 Pakistanis involving both civilians and military sacrificed their lives but we still managed to cleanse that area.
Now you won’t come across TTP roaming around freely and tons of explosive dumped in the area. So for that matter Pakistan and Pakistan Army have helped them a lot .Also a decent amount of money is being set aside for development and infrastructure in the tribal area.
The writer is a Political Activist and a Research Analyst based in Lahore.