Talks with the TTP

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Despite the attacks and preconditions?

Pakistan is supposed to help bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table. It has also to put an end to domestic insurgency either through talks or military action. While the two missions are altogether different from one another, they are equally challenging. Islamabad set Mullah Baradar free on Saturday in the hope that his release would facilitate the resumption of the suspended intra-Afghan talks. In case Mulla Baradar thinks it is necessary to go to any other country to accomplish the task, there would be no bar on his departure. Whether the release would bring the warring sides together to evolve an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led political solution remains to be seen.

Unlike the Afghan Taliban who are fighting a foreign army, Pakistani militants are rebels who have committed atrocities against their own people, attacked armed forces and destroyed national assets. What is more they comprise several groups with their own leaders and decision making bodies. There are also foreign militants in the tribal areas that include the Central Asians, the Chechens and the Chinese separatists besides the Al Qaeda. While it is convenient to advocate talks with the TTP, the network itself has yet to formulate an agenda for talks acceptable to all its affiliates. To maintain a semblance of unity, the TTP owns whatever despicable act its components commit. While the TTP had expressed confidence in the leaders of the PML-N, the JUI-F and the JI before the elections, it conducted some of the worst attacks after the formation of the government of its chosen guarantors of peace.

Over three months and a half in power and strengthened with a mandate from the APC, the PML-N has yet to form a committee for talks with the TTP. It has though taken the issue of the drone attacks to the UN Security Council to build international pressure on the US to stop the attacks. The TTP and its affiliates have meanwhile continued on their deadly mission undeterred. The latest killing of GOC Swat duly owned by the TTP’s official spokesman and followed by the announcement of preconditions for talks indicates that the network wants submission rather than dialogue. The killings in Dir have meanwhile led some of the erstwhile TTP supporters to condemn the act. In case the TTP fails to stop the attacks and withdraw the preconditions, it will be further isolated. It was reportedly agreed at the meeting between the PM, the COAS and the DG ISI that while dialogue should be given a chance, there was no way the government would cave in to the TTP’s demands. The militants should realise that another major attack on the civilian population or the army would create a national consensus on army action to root out the militancy once forever. Many would then insist that the army stop cherry picking and take out all terrorist groups without exception – something that the establishment should have done all along.