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TTP ceasefire: should Pakistan be taken seriously?

So there we have it. The resolve stories were a bit premature. Appeasement wins again and of course it will be hailed as a triumph of statesmanship. And the army while scowling in private will in public hide behind the fig-leaf of civilian supremacy. The inevitable – the having to take on the Taliban (TTP) – has been merely postponed, not the necessity of it eliminated.

Other countries compete in summer and winter Olympics. The Pakistan we have grown up with has come to specialise in playing games with itself. So just when it looked that government and army might have cast irresolution aside comes the charade of the ceasefire between the state of Pakistan and the Holy Shura of the TTP. It’s like Vladimir Putin and the Chechen rebels declaring a mutual ceasefire, or India in Indian Kashmir declaring a ceasefire with the Lashkar-e-Taiba. But then of course Pakistan, wafted by the winds of jihad, is in a class by itself.

Do these wizards really think there is common ground, any meeting point, between the Pakistani state and the messianic Islamist warriors of the TTP dedicated to the overthrow of the Pakistani state? If they think there is can they let us know? For you only negotiate if some common ground exists. Merely brandishing olive branches is never enough.

So what will government and army gain by this reprieve? Will the TTP come any closer to altering its makeup and becoming a force for peace? Will the army be in a better position, a month from now, to deliver a decisive blow against the TTP? What then are government and army hoping to achieve by this month long ceasefire?

From the TTP’s standpoint it makes perfect sense. The aerial strikes, via PAF and helicopter gunships, have been called off. The TTP will have a chance to regroup, relocate, make up for any losses suffered, and prepare for the next round. In return it has ceded nothing, not an inch of ground, not even any theoretical concession.

Government and army of course are crowing about a fictitious victory: sense was knocked into the TTP which is why, taking a small U-turn, it has agreed to a ceasefire. But the ceasefire at this stage, with the TTP under pressure from the patchy aerial offensive, means relief for the TTP, none for government and army. The 23 FC soldiers whose throats were slit – this particular horror forcing the military to act – are not about to be brought back to life. The TTP is not about to renounce violence or lay down its arms. Or is it so hard for the wizards to understand this?

But we will be told to be patient and not rush to judgement. We will be told that this is just the first step, leading to talks and, with luck holding, a peaceful settlement. Fine, let us suspend disbelief, let us eschew negative thoughts and with open and welcoming arms embrace optimism. But the old nagging question remains: can anyone tell us, if not in detail in bare outline, the likely contours of a Taliban settlement? Kuch toh bataien…tell us something.

On this point we encounter the silence of the mountains. Even as government and army shift from one leg to another, painting appeasement and one-sided concessionism in the colours of victory, we are expected to take the government’s word on trust.

So far about the one thing which has happened is that the four-man government committee has been knocked out into the cold and the interior minister has emerged centre-stage to take charge of the so-called peace efforts. Let us wish him success and see what miracles he brings about. In a way this is good because the four-man committee was toothless. With all the ropes now finally in Nisar’s hands – and by the way, the announcement of the ceasefire from the government side came from the interior ministry – at least there won’t be room for any excuses when the delusions of peace finally dissipate and the hard rocks of reality rise more clearly from the waters.

But a crucial month will have been lost and we will be that much closer to the Americans pulling out of Afghanistan. When that happens, the calculus of everything will change. And if anyone thinks that when that moment of vindication for Taliban arms arrives, the TTP led by Mullah Fazlullah of Swat fame will be in a more reasonable frame of mind regarding the confused republic of Pakistan, he will have to be counted amongst the diehard brigade.

Air-Vice Marshal Shahzad Chaudhry’s piece in this paper last Saturday, ‘The case of the LTTE’, about the Tamil Tigers insurgency in Sri Lanka where he was ambassador in 2006 is worth reading by everyone concerned. It explains how peace talks and concessionism failed and finally what it took to defeat and crush the LTTE.

The Tamils at least had genuine grievances against the Sinhalese-dominated state. The Taliban insurgency is being fuelled not by a sense of genuine grievance but by the messianic desire to impose their will on the Pakistani state. The Taliban are not fighting for fundamental rights or Fata autonomy. They are fighting for their version, their very convoluted and primitive version, of the holy kingdom. And the Pakistani state is shuffling and shifting and making a spectacle of itself, and hoping, desperately hoping, that tough decisions will not be required and like manna descends from heaven peace will somehow descend from the skies.

Pakistan’s Pakhtun tribal population, the overwhelming majority, is committed to Pakistan, not because Pakhtuns sway to the sound of Iqbal’s poetry but because their economic interests are tied to Pakistan. But where the TTP holds sway they are sunk into a sullen and apathetic silence because they have lost faith in the ability of the Pakistani state to protect them and fight the Taliban. If the army really bares its fangs it can be assured of the support of the tribal people. But who will give that vitamin shot to the state and the army?

Under Gen Kayani the Pakistan Army perpetuated one of the great hoaxes of our time when it led most people to believe that because of tough terrain it was difficult going into North Waziristan. The tough terrain is in South Waziristan, not the north which is relatively flat.

Now look at the comedy which has been going on in Miranshah, the principal town of North Waziristan. There we have an army div hqs, the FC hqs and close by an establishment of the famous Haqqanis. Hakeemullah Mehsud’s house where the drone got him is hardly 4-5 kilometres from the div hqs. The villages where live our Uzbek, Chechen, and Arab friends are not far away. All this is common knowledge there. An operation could have been undertaken, had the will been there, long ago. But the nation has been fed the tale of North Waziristan’s near-impregnability. Where does fiction end and reality begin?

Meanwhile comes news of the attack on the Islamabad courts. And as I switched on the TV there was every channel in the land going on and on about the TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid saying the TTP had nothing to do with this attack. He’s right. This is another Indo-Zionist-CIA conspiracy to sabotage the peace talks.

Trust the TTP’s media apologists, and there is no shortage of this clan here, to plug this line and urge the government to remain steadfast to the peace process – a phenomenon visible through special goggles only to the TTP apologists and the Chamberlainites of the interior ministry.

Email: winlust@yahoo.com

Ayaz Amir, "TTP ceasefire: should Pakistan be taken seriously?," The News. 2014-03-04.
Keywords: Political science , Political leaders , International issues , Electronic media , National issues , Religious groups , Government-Pakistan , Taliban-Pakistan , Olympics , Games , Vladimir Putin , Chechen rebels , Hakeemullah Mehsud , Ch Nisar Ali , Mullah Fazlullah , Gen Kayani , Pakistan , United States , Afghanistan , Sri Lanka , TTP , CIA