Peace talks with TTP shredded into pieces
Peace talks with TTP shredded into pieces!
The key to negotiations with Tehreek-I-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Federal Interior Minister Ch. Nisar Ali Khan was searching for, was shredded into pieces in the recent attacks by the militants on military personnel in Bannu and Rawalpindi, ostensibly nailing the last nail in the coffin of negotiated settlement of the imbroglio. One can’t doubt the sincerity of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) led government to bring Taliban on negotiation table and broker some settlement to the lingering issue of terrorism across the country, which had devoured hundreds of innocent lives besides causing enormous damage to the national economy.
Though from day first Taliban were suspicious about the olive branch shown by the government to them but at the same time there were some indicators showing inclination of TTP ranks toward parleys. The things went Topsy-curvy with the killing of former TTP chief Hakimullah Masud in a drone attack bringing to a complete halt the whole exercise of negotiations initiated by the government with great pomp and show.
PML-N government from the day first was claiming that all stakeholders, including the Armed Forces, are on same page vis-à-vis holding of negotiations with Taliban and in this connection the All Parties Conference held a few months back had given mandate to the government to roll on the talks process with TTP, but beneath the apparent calm and unanimity there was a sharp disagreement within the Army toward this option of securing lasting peace in the country
. Though on face of it Armed Forces of the country had bowed to the political government’s plan to go for negotiations with these militants, but there is a strong realization within the Army that some of the groups within Tehreek-I-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) would never sit on negotiation table as their strings are in the hands of country’s enemies and they would not let them negotiate with Government of Pakistan. But tactically Army had supported the government’s initiative knowing the fact that the desire of the negotiated settlement with these militant groups would remain a desire and the things have transpired or made to transpire as they (Army) expected.
The infighting and friction within the TTP is another major hurdle in the way of dialogue as whenever both sides came a little closer to sit across the table to workout peace modalities, some of the group from within the TTP come up with some massive terrorist attack like the one executed in Bannu and a day after on January 20 in Rawalpindi inflicting heavy human loss to civilian and military personnel. The recent surge in the attacks, mainly targeting the Armed Forces of the country, and the overt acceptance of the responsibility of these attacks by TTP has virtually torpedoed all the efforts being made to have negotiations with these militants for securing lasting peace in the country.
The people in the know of these developments are of the view that the Ch. Nisar led initiative of dialogue was over following the killing of Hakimullah Mahsud and ‘Plan B’ was put in motion to draw a wedge in the loose coalition of militant groups operating under the Umbrella of TTP, the plan mainly envisaged by the Armed Forces of the country and known as the ‘good and bad Taliban divide in military jargon.’ The defense analysts said that the killing of Hakimullah Masud and appointment of Mulla Fazlullah, a non-Masud as TTP chief, has further opened the cracks in the already divided coalition of the militant groups in the Tribal Areas and Armed Forces of the country wanted to take advantage of these differences within TTP. So, taking advantage of this divide in the TTP the government have initiated negotiations with some of the groups within the TTP, which are dubbed as good Taliban, with the aim to dwindle the strength as well as writ of the TTP in the Tribal Areas.
This game of deception had flared the TTP and in retaliation they had stepped up attacks on the Armed Forces because they believed that the political government led by Mian Nawaz Sharif was just a puppet and the real wheeler-dealer in the whole affair is Armed Forces, and that was the reason the TTP had also brought shift in their earlier position and now their spokesman came up with the statement that their target are Armed Forces personnel and not the civilian population.
People in Armed Forces believed that some of these militants groups, operating from the Tribal Areas against the Armed Forces and people of Pakistan, are being controlled by the country’s enemies and these groups are not even under the influence of TTP. But TTP owned some of their activities only to give the impression that they are in full command of the things in Tribal Areas. These groups, which are being patronized by the country’s enemies, could not get into any sort of negotiations with the Government of Pakistan because of obvious reasons and they could only be dealt with iron hand.
So it is high time for our political and military leadership to readjust in this changed scenario, instead of indulging in the blame game for the failure of negotiation plan, and go for some quick fixes in the restive Tribal Areas to bring normalcy and establish government writ in the troubled areas, be through negotiations with those who wanted to sit across the table with government or by launching controlled military action against them. As by end of this year United States and its NATO allies are going to leave Afghanistan so Pakistan must put its house in order and bring the country’s restive Tribal Areas under complete control so that it could handle the fall out of some unrest in post withdrawal scenario in Afghanistan into the bordering areas of Pakistan.
By: Syed Abid Gillani