Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


For Taliban victims, Pakistani peace talks feel like betrayal

Recently, the Pakistani government and Taliban forces in the country have expressed interest in peace talks. But for thousands of civilians who have been injured or lost a loved one at the hands of the Taliban, the idea is abhorrent.

By Asif ShahzadAssociated Press / February 23, 2013

Pakistani student Hazratullah Khan, 14, who was injured in a car bombing on December 17, 2012 in Peshawar, poses for a picture in Peshawar, Pakistan on Thursday. Hazratullah Khan's right leg was amputated below the knee after he survived a car bombing as he was on his way home from school. His response when asked whether peace talks should be held with the Taliban leaders who ordered attacks like the ones that maimed him is simple: Hang them alive.

Muhammed Muheisen/AP

Enlarge

Peshawar, Pakistan

Hazratullah Khan, who lost his right leg below the knee in a car bombing, answers immediately when asked whether the Pakistani government should hold peace talks with Taliban leaders responsible for attacks like the one that maimed him.

Skip to next paragraph

"Hang them alive," said the 14-year-old, who survived the explosion on his way home from school. "Slice the flesh off their bodies and cut them into pieces. That's what they have been doing to us."

Khan, who is from the Khyber tribal region, pondered his future recently at a physical rehabilitation center in Peshawar.

"What was my crime that they made me disabled for the rest of my life?" he asked as he touched his severed limb.

In recent weeks, the Pakistani government and Taliban forces fighting in northwestern tribal areas have expressed an interest in peace talks to end the years-long conflict. An estimated 30,000 civilians and 4,000 soldiers have died in terrorist attacks in Pakistan since Sept. 11, 2001 — many at the hands of the Pakistani Taliban.

To many victims of Taliban violence, the idea of negotiating with people responsible for so much human pain is abhorrent. Their voices, however, are rarely heard in Pakistan, a country where people have long been conflicted about whether the Taliban are enemies bent on destroying the state or fellow Muslims who should be welcomed back into the fold after years of fighting.

The Associated Press spoke with victims of terrorist attacks in Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and the tribal areas and their families to find out how they felt about negotiating peace with the Taliban.

Khan's classmate, Fatimeen Afridi, who was also injured in the same bombing in Khyber, said he would be happy to see negotiations with the militants — but only after those who maimed him were punished. Afridi's left leg was amputated below the knee, shattering his dream of becoming a fast bowler on Pakistan's cricket team.

"If I find them, I will throw them in a burning clay oven," he said.

The push for peace talks gained momentum in December when the leader of the Pakistani Taliban offered to negotiate. The government responded positively, and even hinted that the militants would not need to lay down their weapons before talks could begin. That would be a reversal of the government's long-held position that any talks be preceded by a ceasefire.

So far, there have been few concrete developments, and it's unclear whether Pakistan's powerful military supports negotiations.

Skeptics doubt the militants truly want peace and point to past agreements with the Taliban that fell apart after giving militants time to regroup. Others say negotiations are the only option since numerous military operations against the Taliban have failed.

The biggest question — especially for many of the Taliban's victims — is whether the Taliban will have to pay any price for the people they are believed to have killed and wounded. The government hasn't said whether it would offer the Taliban amnesty for past offenses.

Many of the victims feel forgotten, saying no one has asked their opinion about holding peace talks. They have to fight for what little health care they can obtain, and there's almost no assistance for dealing with psychological trauma caused by the attacks.

Dr. Mahboob-ur-Rehman runs a private medical complex in Peshawar, a large facility that houses a prosthetic workshop and a therapy school, where both Khan and Afridi are being treated. Rehman said the Pakistani army has a state-of-the-art facility to treat its soldiers while there is little help for civilians. He estimated that roughly 10,000 civilians have been permanently disabled after losing limbs in Pakistani Taliban attacks.

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Doing Good

 

What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!