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Negotiating with the TTP

Despite a crippling heavy infrastructural, human and national loss over a decade the Pakistan government gave the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) yet another chance for peace via dialogue. The debate over peace talks with the TTP came after the mandate of the All Parties Conference (APC) in September of 2013.

Since the announcement of peace talks, the country has been wrecked and ruined by terrorist attacks in one way or the other. To its defence the government was able to have a temporary ceasefire agreed to.

The retaliatory air strikes on militants’ sanctuaries were a possible factor for a favourable response to the peace offer by the militants. Urging all the factions to adhere to the temporary ceasefire worked for the TTP to slow down the momentum of air strikes and to gain a breather.

The continuing terror attacks from associates of the TTP are incompatible with this changing equation. Groups like the Ahrarul Hind, the Jundullah and the Mohmand chapters did not comply with the TTP-brokered peace deal and engaged in terror attacks across various parts of the country, including Islamabad.

Past experience shows that the ceasefire pledge could crumble ‘tout de suite’. Such acts of violence thrust future prospects of peace into jeopardy.

Operating under the franchise of the TTP, various discrete militant groups with collective identification operate independently or in alliance. The militants use such tactics either independently or in unison to achieve their nefarious designs. The presence of these militia forces, hiding their identity though different nomenclatures though affiliated with the mainstream group, is meant to delude the government and the public alike.

Dealing with such semi-autonomous militant groups is difficult for the government at best. The feasibility to deal either with coercion or dialogue seems onerous owing to their murky existence.

The TTP, being the mainstream group, had abided by the ceasefire but neither responded to gruesome attacks by the secessionist groups nor made any efforts to rein in the perpetrators of such violence. Unsure of the consequences of the peace talks, the TTP is cautious over the matter of unveiling its splinter groups.

What will be the issues on the agenda? Since the splinter factions of the TTP have their own discordant agenda, what use would be any agreement arrived at in such a dialogue? The inappropriate demands of the TTP are far too dangerous to accept – their version of the Shariah, withdrawal of the army from South Waziristan and release of prisoners.

The longer the negotiations go on, the more embroiled will the government be in the morass of their unreasonable demands and things would appear to be going in favour of the TTP.

The TTP will not accept anything less than Shariah to be imposed while the government will not budge from its constitutional position. There seems to be no meeting point nor will either side make any concessions. All that the TTP is doing is buy some time to prepare and be ready to fight when the talks ultimately fail.

Meanwhile some elements in the army and some former intelligence officers feel that the armed forces should decide the future course of dialogue and negotiations with the Taliban as they are the real stakeholders in the peace process.

These people also feel that the previous talks had failed because of too much media attention on the committee members. They sense that the ceasefire was a positive move on the part of the TTP to favourably arrive at an agreement.

The effects of the withdrawal of Nato forces on the Taliban on both sides of the Durand Line is another factor to be considered by the army.

What progress can be achieved in the talks is anybody’s guess. Succumbing to the demands of the TTP would lead to a furore by the enlightened citizenry of Pakistan; whereas a stalemate would lead to continued violence and mayhem. Is peace to be an illusion or a reality? Keep your fingers crossed.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Twitter: @JanjuaHaroon

Haroon Janjua, "Negotiating with the TTP," The News. 2014-05-03.
Keywords: Social sciences , Social aspects , National issues , Drone attacks , NATO forces , Society-Pakistan , Taliban-Pakistan , Violence , Pakistan , Waziristan , TTP , APC , NATO