It seems something’s terribly rotten about Aitchison College of Lahore. I mean, isn’t it absolutely mind-boggling that almost all the most prominent Aitchisonians on Pakistan’s political scene are so confused about terrorism? Prime Minister Imran Khan, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak and former Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar are already known for their pro-Taliban statements and now the latest one to join the list of these distinguished alumni of Aitchison College is none other than – ahem – Senator Waleed Iqbal, the grandson of the Poet of the East Allama Iqbal.
What’s up with you, Shaheen?
As it happened
Senator Waleed Iqbal refused to acknowledge Al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden as a terrorist and this hasn’t even come as a shock.
Iqbal featured Waseem Badami’s talk-show on ARY network where he was quizzed by the latter over his views regarding bin Laden. Iqbal seemed hesitant to comment on the ‘character’ of the al-Qaeda founder despite being questioned repeatedly by Badami.
The anchorperson asked whether Iqbal believed Osama was a terrorist or not. “I am talking about Osama Bin Laden’s character in specific. Do you believe he was a terrorist?” Badami questioned to which Iqbal said “why do I comment on this?”, adding that he had ‘no view’ regarding bin Laden.
Imran Khan or Taliban Khan?
If what Iqbal claims is true, it would not come as a surprise. From defending them to calling them terrorists, Khan has had a diverse range of takes on the group.
For example, in 2014, Khan suggested and even campaigned for talks between the government and the Taliban. Although he was criticized for his suggestions and even branded Taliban Khan, he remained adamant in is opinion.
In 2018, Khan condemned NATO’s actions against the Taliban saying that it was ‘butchery’. He said that NATO had no idea about the demographics of Pakistan. “They read English newspapers, which bears no resemblance to Pakistan”. He also condemned the United States and allies.
But Khan is not the only one whose comments about the Taliban and banned outfits have caused stir. Various top-brass politicians have shared similar sentiments over the years too.
‘Murder of Peace’: Chaudhry Nisar on Hakimullah Mehsud’s killing
When in November 2013, former TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a drone strike, the then Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar mourned the killing, terming it ‘murder of peace’.
In 2016, when Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was killed in a US drone attack, Chaudhry Nisar condemned it, saying that it had put Pakistan in a very difficult situation. He called the drone attack “totally illegal, not acceptable and against the sovereignty and integrity of the country”.
“You cannot expect them to come to talks after killing their leader; this killing has put Pakistan in a very difficult situation,” he said.
‘This is your province’: Khattak to Taliban in 2013
Defence Minister and former Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Pervaiz Khattak in 2013 said that there was no enmity between the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Taliban.
He also said that the province of KP was Taliban’s and the then to-be PTI government in the province was aiming to work with the Taliban for peace. “We appeal to Taliban that we are not at war with you, this province is yours and we are hopeful you will work for its peace. We are not against anyone and not here to fight anyone, we want peace and development in our province and we want to talk to them,” Khattak was quoted as saying by Dawn.
Taliban and PML-N have ‘common stance’: Shehbaz Sharif in 2010
The trend is not just confined to the top political brass from the Aitchison College, but also exists among the alumni of Lahore’s other prestigious college: the GCU.
For example, in 2010, former Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that his party and the Taliban had a common ground and that was their anti-Musharraf stance. He had also urged the Taliban to cease attacks in Punjab because of the common ground between the two parties.
“Gen Musharraf planned a bloodbath of innocent Muslims at the behest of others only to prolong his rule, but we in the PML-N opposed his policies and rejected dictation from abroad and if the Taliban are also fighting for the same cause then they should not carry out acts of terror in Punjab (where the PML-N is ruling),” Shehbaz was quoted as saying by Dawn.