Historically, religious indoctrination has been used as a common practice in Pakistan to produce the element of nationalism and patriotism to deter the enemies of Islam and Pakistan. As a result the notion of patriotism and nationalism is radically dissipated. An entire school of thought in the shape of political and religious parties have emerged practicing violent behaviors in the name of religion and patriotism. That is one of the reasons that Pakistan has long been called a bastion of extremism and rightly so.
Pakistan has remained trapped in persistent intra state conflicts greatly undermining the internal sovereignty and rule of law. The optimism, expectations and media hype that we are witnessing today was the same at a time when government resorted to hold peace talks with Taliban in the past. But the result was never something substantial and never did the TTP disarm itself and attempted to reintegrate in the mainstream civil society of Pakistan.
Government needs to understand that talks once again at this stage are anything but a mere exercise of futility. There are number of factions among the TTP based in FATA and Punjab like Fedayeen al-Islam, Haqqani Network, Ansar Al-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), and Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HuJI) and that without any clear hierarchy. TTP is composed of certain groups who pursue interests with distinct internal and external agendas. Some factions target security installations while others are involved in targeting minorities and Shia Muslims across Pakistan.
TTP has been unwavering in its spread of violence while intermediaries were busy in crafting an outline for the talks to move on. The latest attack in F-8 sector Islamabad and the previous rounds of suicide attacks which were owned by Ahrarul Hind and by TTP Peshawar region respectively speaks lengths about the lack of consensus in holding productive talks with the government. There have been as many as 48 reported incidents since government announced to hold dialogue with the TTP. The attack on the bus carrying police forces in Karachi which killed 13 police men and the ruthless beheading of 30 paramilitary forces happened at a time when the peace committees were making an effort to arrange a ceasefire.
The history of peace talks is not something to cherish about. The major failures are still afresh in the minds of people of Pakistan. The Shakai peace agreement in April 2004 with the nefarious Nek Mohammad was the first accord of its kind. It later ended after Nek Mohammad refused to dislodge the foreign fighters residing in FATA which he had promised. He was later killed in drone strike followed by a military operation by Pakistan army. Another peace agreement was signed known as Sararogha agreement in February 2005 with Baitullah Mehsud. He was responsible for the killings of thousands of Pakistanis. The deal ended after accusations and counter accusations of violating the agreement. The peace agreement offered Baitullah Mehsud to recruit new fighters and expand his area of control.
The ruthless Baitullah Mehsud claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks inside Pakistan. He was also declared as one of the main architects behind the killing of PPP leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The Swat peace agreement of May 2008 is a silent reminder of total failure of reconciliation, reintegration and negotiation attempts. This agreement allowed Taliban to take the administrative control of the area and impose laws as per the TTP’s version of Sharia. It collapsed after Taliban resorted to expand their sphere of influence.
TTP has now mastered the art of buying time. They have been using the mantra of peace talks for strengthening reinforcements, prisoner’s releases, monetary compensation and power consolidation.
The narrative floating in the minds of advocates of negotiations that America is holding talks with the Taliban so shall we is very naive thought. Let’s be mindful of the fact that America has killed Osama Bin Ladin, a nefarious Al-Qaeeda leader who is equally adored by the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. The objective of emasculating Taliban has been greatly achieved and they have installed a political setup which is ready for the first successful historic political transition. Attempts to bring the Taliban fighters in the mainstream politics are only to ensure a smooth withdrawal from Afghanistan.
We are certainly not crafting an exit strategy from the tribal areas of Pakistan. Our case is fundamentally and principally different from that of US in Afghanistan. The tribal belt of Pakistan is a legitimate territory of Pakistan. Pakistan is dealing with a lawless region which is of immense strategic importance. Decades old lawlessness has made the region an Achilles’ heel while dealing with terrorism. Absence of rule of law in FATA makes it a very fertile ground for international terrorism. Its proximity with the Afghanistan makes it a perfect launching pad for attacks inside Afghanistan and Pakistan with impunity which will further undermine the already in tatters Af-Pak relations.
Dialogue could be possible only when the objectives of negotiations are attainable and goals are clear. The prospects of dialogue through powerless intermediaries are a failure already.
An appropriate use of force coupled with sustainable socio-economic reforms will surely pave the way for peace in the area. A well coordinated operation involving Pakistan army, police and other paramilitary forces in the urban centers will effectively reduce the strength of TTP. One has to be mindful of the fact that tribal areas have a unique culture where adherence to the notions and decisions of tribal elders and chieftains is a tradition. Along with a well coordinated operation government should take the long sidelined Tribal elders of the FATA region on board and deal with them while considering them as stake holders. Moreover if the government is sincere to stop further bloodshed it needs to start integrating the lawless region into the mainstream Pakistan.
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