Pakistan is perhaps one of the only states on this planet where patriotism and right to live is conditioned upon avoiding certain questions, and not venturing into spheres arbitrarily marked prohibited for public scrutiny and discourse. The underpinnings of a functional state operating through a legitimate representative system cannot ignore the vital questions raised by its citizens. Asking questions or to debate what fundamentally affects citizens’ lives is one of the basic elements of the social contract between a legitimate state and state-citizens. The exercise of force and violence by the state should be subjected to pre and post public scrutiny to determine whether its sanction is justified. The use of force and violence on its own soil further warrants scrutiny, especially if demanded by the affected section of the population. If any party violates the terms of the social contract, the aggrieved party is entitled to revoke and demand renegotiation in case the violator is unable to justify its actions. If the Pakhtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), the nomenclature of ‘protection’ abundantly conveys the essence, is seen through the prism of universal principles of social contract between the state and citizens rather than a subject-master relationship, there would be no need to take refuge behind the veneer of threat to state integrity. The PTM representing the affected population demands public scrutiny. The present tension is not between the state as an entity and PTM is the outcome of imbalance among, state institutions and a particularly overbearing state institution (read military) beyond the purview of social contract. The outcome results in the system’s dysfunctionality of locating responsibility and carrying out accountability. The state should not wait for the opening of the flood gates that might necessitate our own Nuremberg The military claims that FATA, and later Swat fell to the Taliban and the army had to restore the writ of the state through a full-fledged war. The PTM questions this claim and the use of force by the army, raising a significant question — how and why did the Taliban find space in those areas? On May 11, 2002, Dawn, an English daily, reported the army’s deployment in FATA to flush out Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters hiding in areas bordering Afghanistan. In the same report, officials denied the US intelligence reports of Al-Qaeda and Taliban fugitives’ presence in Waziristan. The main objective given for the deployment was to prevent the Al-Qaeda and Taliban from Afghanistan infiltrating FATA. Later on, the level of force the army used indicated that every village in FATA, particularly North Waziristan, was infested by the Taliban making a full-fledged war imperative. Surprisingly, the Taliban succeeded to form the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in 2007 with the army present in the entire region. How were the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, running for their lives from Afghanistan, able to regroup to form operational bases in the presence of the army? Similarly, the so-called control of Swat by the Taliban occurred during the presence of the army. Before its deployment in Swat, Fazlullah’s activities were limited to his under construction madrassa and preaching on his illegally installed FM radio. In July 2007, weeks before the army’s deployment, the Taliban tried to erect check posts but failed when faced with public reaction. The most painful side, apart from physical and material losses of this drama, is the tarnishing of Pakhtun image, that they could not protect their honour and lives from Taliban and needed the army to liberate them. On the other hand they were portrayed as the Taliban, while the former accused them of being complicit with the army. The people in Swat and FATA were restrained between two check posts and months long curfews restricting them to four walls. After the army deployment, it was not the responsibility of the civilians to save Swat or FATA from Taliban. All the incidents of violence, attacks, including throat slitting, took place during curfews and between a one or two kilometre radius of check posts. The brigands, disguised as Taliban mostly wearing masks, would be a group of 50 to 150 roaming freely during curfew. Any civilian venturing to step outside in desperate circumstances would fall victim to the watchful army outposts. The check posts’ phenomenon was not only notorious for the daily humiliation it caused the local populace, but was an instrument of restricting mobility of innocent people. Not for the Taliban though, who managed to overcome them to reach their target. Hundreds of target killings occurred within the vicinity of military camps and check posts. It is very unfortunate that the Taliban entered areas controlled by the military unrestrained. During the first military operation in November 2007 in Kabal and Matta tehsils of Swat, the displaced population moved to the city of Mingora. After the city was handed over to the military in November 2008, till January 2009, the Green Chowk turned into a bloody chowk. In a city of a few square kilometres, could the Taliban be so bold to kill and later hang the bodies from poles with instructions of not to remove till the stipulated time? How could the Taliban perpetuate terror while the army was present in the area? In 2009, a jet bombarded a mosque and houses in the village of Barthana in Matta tehsil killing about 30 innocent people, including women and children. The next day when the villagers were still recovering the bodies, an ISPR statement claimed the army had killed terrorists and destroyed a Taliban ammunition depot. So far, the people of this country as well as the world know the identities of those killed by drone attacks whether civilian or terrorists, but not the identities of terrorists killed in army operations. The missing persons’ affair is more sordid than this. The reason why it is being kept as a no go area for journalists is because its sheer scale. There is increasing support for an independent fact finding commission to resolve the enigma of the War on Terror. Any counter terrorism expert can affirm that in operating against a handful of terrorists, the state needs to be very careful in dealing with the rest of the population. But here every measure is taken to control and oppress the innocent population. The army claims that it is constructing cantonments on the demand of the people of Swat. The local people have neither demanded nor accepted this. The question is, how can a mercurial terrorist band like the Taliban necessitate the construction of cantonments? If that be the case, then every district of this country needs a cantonment. The remaining smoke screen was washed by the military’s proposed political mainstreaming of those involved in terrorism. Even the employment of some in the paramilitary forces was part of the project. Then there is the case of the mysterious surrender of Ehsan Ullah Ehsan, Taliban’s spokesperson and his interviews on TV channels with embedded anchor persons. It calls into question the role of the media after the release of Sufi Mohammad from jail and by comparison a total blackout of people’s miseries inflicted by this so called war on terror. Dutifully propounding the narrative it covered every movement and statement of the Taliban. The blackout of PTM’s mammoth rallies removed whatever doubts remained in the mind of people regarding the state’s duplicity. What the PTM is revealing is just the tip of the iceberg; Pukhtuns hide many things due to honour and self-respect. The state should not wait for the opening of the flood gates that might necessitate our own Nuremberg. The remedy lies in recourse to the basics of social contract to locate responsibilities followed by accountability. It won’t work to blame and malign to avoid responsibility by using spurious means. The PTM’s basic goal is course correction through constitutional means. The writer is a political analyst hailing from Swat. Tweets @MirSwat Published in Daily Times, April 18th 2018.