Peace talks versus violence

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The killing of 15 kidnapped Frontier Constabulary soldiers in the frontier region Tank last week by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan is a great tragedy for those unfortunate souls, their families and the country.

What was the fault of those brave soldiers? Why did they, like thousands of others, sacrifice their lives? Don’t they have parents to cry, wives to mourn and kids to weep? Those security personnel who were butchered had human, social, economic and physical aspects that could not be ignored. Apart from the economic realities related to the persons who have been killed, there are always wider psychological aspects for the family members left behind, particularly their children who are left orphan. The human and psychological aspects cannot be alleviated by any amount of financial compensation. But the bigger tragedy related to the issue is that despite all these unmatchable sacrifices rendered by the soldiers, the Americans are not ready to acknowledge Pakistan as the frontline state against war on terror.

Similarly, the killing of those FC soldiers is a clear signal for everybody that the war on terror is not yet over. The danger and threat to the lives and property of both civilian and security forces remains a challenge. Anti-state or non-state actors may hit the country whenever or wherever they get a chance; however, tribal regions being close to the war theatre of Afghanistan are more exposed to violence and brutalities. The reason is obvious as the terrorists, whatever groups they may belong to find a tangible support from across the border but the US and the Afghan governments are not willing to take responsibility except blaming Pakistan for all evils. Majority in the US and the West acknowledges the fact that a failed US Afghan policy is the main cause of all violence and instability in Afghanistan as well as in the region.

Pakistan is also a victim of America’s failed military approach on war on terror. The US generals’ “Garrison Afghan Strategy” has left the whole region unstable and we in Pakistan have paid a greater cost for it than any other nation in the world. The US talk-fight-talk approach could not restore peace in the region. Even now nobody is sure whether the US is serious about resolving the Afghanistan conflict through unconditional talks with all Afghans groups without discriminating them either good or bad. So, it won’t be difficult at all to determine that the brutal killing of FC soldiers has a direct link to the volatile situation of Afghanistan.

Give them whatever name you want to – fundamentalists or extremists or terrorists – all those elements who challenge the writ of the state are criminals. So, all their violent actions taken under whatever ideology or circumstance cannot be endorsed or justified at any cost. Those who do not respect the country’s laws and its institutions must be dealt with an iron hand.

Today, there are reports of behind the scene contacts and negotiations at different levels between the state functionaries and the Taliban operating in various agencies of FATA. There are reports that the Taliban have agreed to halt their violent actions against the security forces in the tribal belt and further modalities are being worked out for a future peace deal. As a matter of principle, when there are deals they are based on give and take. As the government has been denying making any deal or agreement, therefore, nobody is in a position to translate the fundamentals of the engagements.

The peace talk initiative is a welcome step. War could be one of the options of resolving conflict or dispute but is not the solution. We can see in the history that all the major conflicts were ultimately resolved through peaceful negotiations. However, fundamentals of any peace deal should have a clear guarantee that the two parties will respect the agreements and will not resort to violence. Taliban must ensure that; 1, they will not challenge the writ of state; 2, they will not put any restriction on the movement of security forces in any part of the tribal areas; 3, they will not attack security personnel and civilians; 4, they will not damage or destroy vital installations, public and private properties, schools and hospitals etc; 5, they will not intimidate government officials performing their official duties; 6, they will not block any communication system including roads within the tribal areas; 7, they will help security forces and law enforcement agencies to arrest anyone involved in any criminal activity in the FATA region; 8, the rich and the business community will not be forced to pay any money in the shape of funds for the organisations etc; and 9, the cross-border legal bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan would not be disrupted. If these fundamental conditions are not fulfilled then the whole concept of peace would be nothing else but a joke.

There is another angle to such killings and attacks on the security forces. There is an ample possibility that those internal and external forces, that do not want a peace deal between the government and the Taliban in FATA, may play a dirty game to sabotage the whole process. So, the two sides must remain vigilant and should also have confidence and trust in each other and the peace process. However, dictating the terms through violence will bring no peace and no solution.

The writer hosts a primetime talk show on a TV channel and can be contacted via email: [email protected]