‘Toothless’ committee raises eyebrows

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LAHORE

The government has further reduced the profile of committee mandated to conduct talks with Taliban leadership in coming days, raising eyebrows as to its utility and effectiveness in achieving objectives.
A former federal secretary said that the configuration of the committee suggested that talks would be confined to FATA alone where the government is ready to undertake reforms and give more concessions. Besides, it seems to be an attempt to seek an administrative solution to the ever-elusive problem at the hands of the government by picking an all-bureaucratic committee instead of going for political negotiations. All of the body members hail from FATA and have served in the tribal areas in the past.
“All the members are well-versed with local traditions and system and so they can show us the way forward,” another bureaucrat said.
“When Taliban leader Naik Muhammad was killed and truce between the government and Taliban reversed, a local political agent came out with a statement that the government should keep in mind the local traditions and society if it needs a permanent solution. I think the government is now heeding that advice,” he observed.
Another official said since the bureaucrats are more “expendable stuff” so the government opts for them while keeping the political figures out of the mess. You never know what transpires in the meeting taking place in NWA with the Taliban.
However, the political figures are not sure if the government could achieve its objectives with a committee of such a low profile lacking all the right people.
“It could have been better had the government picked the defence or interior secretary in lieu of likes of Fawad Ahnad Fawad, a grade 19 officer only with rank of additional secretary.”
“Such low-profile figures raise the questions of credibility. In jirgas, the members give a lot of weightage to the high profile figures whom they need to think twice before offending them,” said PPP leader Manzoor Wattoo.
He also said the PPP was opposed to the inclusion of bureaucrats in the negotiations because it is the government’s responsibility to reach an agreement with the bureaucrats implementing its decisions.
Before the committee was being headed by an advisor with the status of federal minister, but it has now no person of his status, he added.
The four-member committee includes: Ports and Shipping Secretary Habibullah Khattak, former envoy Rustam Shah Mohmand, FATA Additional Secretary Arbab Arif and PM’s Additional Secretary Fawad Hasan Fawad.
However despite adverse reaction from the PPP and other political parties, PTI Chairman Imran Khan gave a clean chit to the government’s efforts in this regard.