ISLAMABAD - The gradually fizzling ‘dialogue process’ that envisages making peace with the hardcore terrorists seems heading towards its eventual outcome after Pakistan’s security apparatus has come down hard on Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the notorious terrorist umbrella organisation, for killing security personnel in the recent attacks.
In a related development, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif would be meeting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reportedly to review the security strategy in the aftermath of repeated terror attacks amid the peace talks, it is learnt. Expected in the coming days, the meeting would include briefings from the military command to the PM on the security situation in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Karachi.
In a recent deadly move, the TTP Mohmand Agency chapter claimed Sunday to have killed 23 soldiers from Frontier Corps (FC) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, kidnapped in June 2010, saying the executions were made to avenge the deaths of TTP leaders in the security agencies’ custody
Rejecting this allegation, the security officials said the terrorist outfit has violated the ceasefire which, they said, would trigger repercussions.
“We followed the ceasefire, but the other side did not,” said one of the army intelligence officials, referring to the latest episode of violence, during a background interaction with a handful of journalists, including this correspondent, on Monday.
While the killings of security men at the hands of TTP – 13 in Karachi, 23 in Mohmand Agency and a host of related terror activities – have put the fate of the peace talks with the militants in doldrums, the military’s course of action in line with its reported policy of retaliatory action as agreed at a top-level commanders’ meeting just a few days back, would purportedly be determined at the PM-COAS upcoming meeting.
No executions of the TTP militants, the intelligence officials said, were made during detentions, especially in the recent past, ever since the government had officially decided to initiate peace talks with the militants after constituting a four-member committee last month. “Right from the day one, the TTP leadership wanted the release of several hardcore terrorists that are under the security agencies custody. This demand is unacceptable since no such decision has been supported or suggested in the peace talks from the government’s side. None of those detained militants has been killed by our agencies,” the officials said, adding more than 500 hardcore terrorists were imprisoned in different safe houses, prisons and related facilities and the TTP wanted their release.
Requesting anonymity, one of the former Pakistan Army generals, who retired during the last couple of years, said the issue of the release of detained militants always remained high on the TTP’s agenda. “The Taliban commanders, through different political and related channels, demanded the release of the TTP militants and in return offered release of the security men the TTP had kidnapped from parts of the Fata. But no deal in this regard has ever been struck and no militant has been released,” he said. Presently, the ex-army man said, some personnel from FC, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, kidnapped in the recent years, are still in the TTP’s custody. “It is all about the detained TTP prisoners. The military establishment would never bargain on this count and there would be no breakthrough,” the ex-general believed.
During the 169th Corps Commanders Conference held on February 10, the army commanders were reported to have pledged to follow the policy of ceasefire during the peace talks with the militants in line with the government’s decision, while reiterating to retaliate in response to any direct attack on the security personnel. “A ceasefire is put in place and it would not be violated from our side. But if other side takes liberty, things would be different. Every form of direct aggression is to trigger repercussions,” an intelligence source had told The Nation then.
Amid no let-up in the TTP terror attacks, the PM, last month, constituted a four-member committee to conduct peace talks with the terrorist outfit instead of giving a go-ahead for a decisive military action. Since then, over two dozen terror attacks have taken place in different parts of the country. The PM and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan stated more than once the terror attacks and peace talks cannot go hand in hand.