Touched by an emotionally-charged candlelight vigil held by liberal aunties and their naïve young followers at Lahore’s Liberty Roundabout last week, the Taliban made a unanimous decision in an historic meeting to abandon their armed struggle and surrender.

“They were so angry and so upset,” a Taliban spokesman said from his office in Pakistan’s lawless northwestern areas located in the heart of Peshawar. “They were holding posters saying ‘Stop this terrorism,’ and so compelled were we that we had no choice but to stop.”

Holding their own vigil at the same spot carrying signs saying ‘Okay! Fine!’ demonstrators from the formerly banned group decided to merge their group with Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) and accepted the party’s chairman Imran Khan as their emir. The march was led by PTI leader Shireen Mazari, after Taliban leaders declined to allow women to walk with them.  

Imran Khan, who proved his political acumen during his cricketing career with shrewd moves in the dressing room, eventually gave up politics and formed his own political party. Last month, he declined to represent the Taliban in peace talks with the government. He was named by the Taliban as part of a team to negotiate on their behalf, but his party decided he would not be part of the committee. “Our chairman cannot represent the Taliban in the negotiations,” a PTI leader told reporters in a press conference. “He will only represent them in the media and the parliament, in line with his existing role.”

Political analysts say Khan fulfilled his responsibility in an outstanding way during his recent interview with Hamid Mir. There were unconfirmed reports that Hamid Mir was also present during the interview but largely stayed off-camera. The reports could not be corroborated by the audience.

This week’s events surprised even the PTI chairman, analysts say. “Someone finally addressed the issue the right way, and that is what made them stop,” one defence analyst explained. “Everyone kept asking them to stop killing innocent people, but is that any way of talking to someone, I ask you? All they were waiting for was somebody in a Sana Safinaz jora to ask them politely, in English, on a candle-lit night. It worked.”

The small group of liberal protesters who made peace possible is being hailed as heroes by people on both sides of the political spectrum. “The liberals of Pakistan were displaying what we called a candlelight vigil fatigue,” a representative of the NGO said while talking to reporters.  “There were so many despicable things happening all around us, there were so many issues to deal with, so many violations of our fundamental rights, that a large percentage of liberals had become tired of protesting and many in the NGO sector began to look for real jobs,” she explained. “But our small group continued to believe that we could change the world with our straightforward protest signs and naïve appeals. We knew one day it would work.” Hinting at a future project, the organization said candles were also a valuable source of renewable energy.

“I think it is time for me to settle down,” a Taliban commander said in an interview. “For now, I think I can do without 70 virgins. I’ll make do with four,” he said, seeming optimistic after abandoning his decade-long struggle. “But with the prevailing law and order conditions in this part of the world, I am thinking of immigrating to the UK.”

He said Imran Khan was a visionary leader and had passed on a beacon of hope to his men. “We do not need bombs and explosives now. We can use that beacon to burn down churches and Christian towns or just anyone not behaving themselves, in line with the constitution of Pakistan.”

The above project will include groups of former militants working hand in hand with liberal activists, and will be called the Candlelight Vigilantes.

 The author has a degree in Poetics of Prophetic Discourse and works as a Senior Paradigm Officer.

Email:harris@nyu.edu

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