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The TTP split

Of all the party leaders we have today, Imran speaks the language of simplicity and acts simplistically too. But he speaks and acts with a great deal of conviction.

Who does not remember his passionate calls for quitting America’s war on terror? Or his vigorous campaign against US drone attacks in Pakistan. Imran called for talks with the Taliban, even pleading for opening an office for them to facilitate contact with them. Such disarming sincerity has resulted in some critics giving him the name of Taliban Khan.

One particularly simple but intriguing statement by Imran in favour of talking to the Taliban was that only by starting the talks will we find out who among their numerous groups was for or against a dialogue with the government. Let us give Imran full marks because the indirect talks have led to a major split among the various groups under the umbrella of the TTP. It has become clear that by slaughtering 23 FC personnel, the Mohmand Agency leader of the jihadis has wrecked the talks – if not sunk them.

A profile of Khorasani in The News of February 18 portrays him as a sworn enemy of the state of Pakistan, vowing to avenge the Lal Masjid operation of 2007. His extreme position on imposition of Shariah qualifies him to fall in the category of those who are against the talks. He is also said to be close to Mullah Fazlullah, who himself is nursing the ambition of returning to Swat one day as the commander of the faithful.

The government-Taliban talks are suspended for now but Nawaz Sharif is not going to give up his plan of reaching a modus vivendi with the TTP. He must be aware of the need to bring down the level of violence by the jihadis and the security forces to try to reach a provisional agreement. The federation should take a cue from Imran’s idea of separating the pro- and anti-talks factions.

Some analysts claim that the army is not in favour of talks as these raise possibilities of releasing Taliban in state custody or partial withdrawal of troops. Mian Sahib has to bring the generals on board before entering into any truce or other concessions.

The government would do well to convey to the TTP that certain forms of violence must be curbed to make any agreement feasible. The militants must eschew attacks on educational institutions, students and families. The killing of polio workers must stop and an arrangement reached with the Taliban to conduct the polio vaccination in tribal areas. Government representatives should take a firm stand on these points before concluding any other arrangements with the Taliban.

While the news from Mohmand Agency has cast gloom all around, some respite from the macabre was provided by Musharraf’s ‘surprise’ in the special court set up to try him on the grave charge of subverting the constitution. A precedent has been set whatever the final outcome of his trial or his ultimate fate. The mere thought that the army chief is not above the law is comforting.

Yet Musharraf’s appearance in the court is not good enough to deter future Bonapartes unless a determination is made that constitutional order cannot be suspended without someone being accountable, even if that someone happens to be the army chief.

There is an eerie side to the general’s court appearance. The National Library building has been requisitioned to serve as seat of the special court. As it is, the location of this library in the administrative rather than popular quarters of the capital has made it inaccessible to the general public. Given the security threats prevailing at present, the library has practically become out of bounds for academic or research purposes. Its sanctity has been breached, among others, by the heavy boots of the security posse of someone on trial for subverting the highest law of the land.

In today’s Pakistan, everything, including Musharraf’s trial, pales into insignificance when compared to the dance of death by the self-styled soldiers of Islam. In the short term, the pro-talks lobby is shaking at the knees because their worst fears have come true. They have realised that the TTP and its acolytes are anything but men of peace.

Killing thousands of Pakistanis including women and children has taken out whatever little human feelings they had to start with. Their reassertion of bloodletting as a favourite pastime has disappointed nobody more than the prime minister.

So where do we go from here? Indirect talks, which had been favoured by the TTP as well as the government have received a setback but a recovery can still be made if the two sides so desire. The fallback could be talks through envoys replacing the committee mode. It is also time that the confidentiality of talks is assured and the tendency to talk through the media is checked. As President Wilson learned a bit too late, negotiations cannot be conducted in the open.

Email: saeed.saeedk@gmail.com

M. Saeed Khalid, "The TTP split," The News. 2014-02-21.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Polio vaccination , Political leaders , Drone attacks , National issues , Social issues , Government-Pakistan , Taliban , Imran Khan , PM Nawaz Sharif , Mullah Fazlullah , Gen Musharraf , President Wilson , Pakistan , United States , TTP