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Capital suggestion

There are three primary stakeholders in the current high stake conflict: the PML-N, the TTP and the GHQ. It is extremely important to understand and identify both the ‘nature and the intensity’ of interests of the three primary stakeholders.

Stakeholders’ interests can be ‘many and varied’. Stakeholders’ interests can be both short as well as long term. Among the most common are territorial interests followed by economic interests (both of which flow out of political control of physical terrain).

The PML-N, TTP and GHQ all have a stake in the outcome of the current negotiations. The PML-N’s geographic terrain of primary interest is the 205,344 sq km through which flow the five tributaries of the Indus River. This also happens to be the province that produces some 70 percent of Pakistan’s GDP. The PML-N’s tactical, primary economic interests are privatisation and trade with India.

The TTP’s first and foremost interest is territory. The TTP’s short-term interests are both tactical and economic. The TTP’s geographic terrain of primary interest is the 4,707 sq km through which flows the Tochi River. The TTP already has de facto control over North Waziristan Agency (NWA) and it now seeks de jure control as well.

Other short-term tactical interests include release of their prisoners, withdrawal of the army from Fata and a hefty compensation package (for the propagation of the war economy). The TTP’s long-term strategic interests include expanding its area of political control by capturing additional Pakistani territory.

The GHQ’s short-term interests include containing the TTP and protecting the Afghan Taliban. Over the long term, the GHQ would want to preserve its hold over Pak-US, Pak-India and Pak-Afghanistan relations (the tussle between the PML-N and GHQ is on).

The PML-N’s mindset is appeasement – a mindset that desires to contain violence against the geographic terrain of the PML-N’s primary interest (read: Punjab) by offering concessions to the perpetrators of violence. The TTP’s mindset is revisionist – to rewrite the rules of the game in order to capture political power. GHQ’s mindset is strategic-a mindset bent upon “gaining of overall or long-term military advantage”.

The probability is high that the PML-N’s mindset of appeasement will be prone to trade off less than one percent of Pakistan’s territory (read: NWA) in return for two things: keeping geographic terrain of the PML-N’s primary interest away from harm’s way and letting the PML-N pursue its economic agenda (read: privatisation and trade with India).

The GHQ faces a dilemma – an action is bound to have undesirable outcomes but so does inaction. The GHQ has been fighting the militants since March 16, 2004 (when the Pakistan Army came under a bloody attack by foreign fighters in the white mountains of South Waziristan).

Over the past nine years, 10 months and three weeks, the GHQ has lost 5,590 precious officers and soldiers but recaptured 17 out of 18 administrative areas from the hold of the TTP and its allies. The billion-dollar question now is if the GHQ will endorse the mindset of appeasement in which case the army’s institutional memory built around the Swat episode will come back and haunt the top brass. Clearly, the civilian and the military leaderships are not on the same page.

A blood-soaked blowback in urban centres (of an operation in NWA) must be consuming both civil as well as military minds. The need of the day is a formal cost-benefit analysis of both an action and inaction.

“There are risks and costs to a programme of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.” John F Kennedy

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email: farrukh15@hotmail.com

Twitter: @saleemfarrukh

Dr Farrukh Saleem, "PML-N, TTP and GHQ," The News. 2014-02-16.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Military leadership , Political control , Taliban , Violence , Militants , John F Kennedy , India , Afghanistan , United States , GHQ , PMLN , NWA , TTP