ISLAMABAD - The federal government is these days finalising a two-pronged approach - to alienate smaller Taliban groups from more extremist and hardened ones in a short term, and engage the rest in initial contacts to buy time and avert terrorism incidents.
At the same time, the PML-N government seems puzzled about the near future strategy of holding a dialogue with the most lethal of all groups, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan-led by Hakimullah Mehsud, which has already set pre-conditions for the non-starter talks. The modalities of the dialogue process with TTP are still not finalised and are likely to get a formal shape after the final approval from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his return from United States, a senior official of Ministry of Interior said while talking to The Nation here on Tuesday.
Though the government tried to politically distance itself from some banned outfits and their political wings, but officials privy to these developments claim that Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, the chief of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), formerly known as Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, has been secretly negotiating on government’s behest with smaller yet effective Taliban groups like Punjabi Taliban, headed by Asmatullah Muaviya. The Punjabi Taliban Chief has lately come up with his own vision of government-Taliban talks, a step that has alienated him from Hakimullah group of TTP.
The ASWJ, known as the mother organisation of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, is currently holding talks with some groups of TTP on behalf of government side to convince them to come to the negotiating table. ASWJ’s main leadership, however, remained silent when this correspondent asked for details of the militant groups showing willingness to join talks. Some security officials dealing with this subject opine that political parties, which advocate giving peace a chance are still not convinced about each other’s commitment and understanding of the issue of terrorism. Many political leaders simply do not understand complexities involved with the dialogue process, they charge.
“We are working on the plot of peace talks and still our leadership is paying only ‘lip-service’ to the dialogue process without any practical and concrete idea of how to go about it,” a security official said. He pointed out that a contact with influential tribal elders is a missing link in the whole process.
The official said that a team under the supervision of Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan has been working on the mechanism of talks, and will come up with a clear vision of how to move forward, possibly through a Jirga to contact the Taliban and start negotiations with them. The said team will lead the process as a policy is being formulated for federally administered tribal areas (FATA) where most militants and their organizations are based,” he added.
The Prime Minister was the first one to ask the federal government on February 4 this year (then as opposition’s leading figure) to take the Taliban talks offer seriously and begin a serious, meaningful and result-oriented dialogue with the TTP leadership without any delay.
In fact, it was the second dialogue offer from the TTP in a short span of time. The first one came from Hakimullah Mehsud on December 28, 2012, which was rejected by the military leadership during the January 4 corps commanders meeting. The military hierarchy was of the view that accepting the TTP demands would amount to admitting defeat of the state against the al-Qaeda-linked extremists.
For now, according to reliable sources, some small but effective groups of TTP have agreed on to sit with the government. At the moment, officials claim, more than seventy 70 militant groups are working in tribal areas of KPK.
Different types of militant groups are active in FATA. The main militant groups in Bajaur Agency are TTP, Tehrik Jaish-e-Islami Pakistan, Dr Ismail Group, the Karawan Naimatullah group and the Moulana Abdullah Group. Mohmand Agency is inhabited by different tribes in which Safi is a small but the most radical tribe. The TTP is also a very active group in Mohmand Agency. The Lashkar-e-Islam and Ansar-ul-Islam are the most dominant outfit in the Khyber Agency. Mangal Bagh Afridi from Lashkar-e-Islam and Qari Mahboob ul Haq from Ansar-ul-Islam are the chief commanders of militant groups from this region as well. Salfi group is also rising very fast in North Waziristan.
Likewise, the Tariq Afridi group of the TTP is the main militant group active in Khyber Agency. Kurram Agency has a history of sectarian violence and clashes between Shia and Sunni sects, which have caused thousands of deaths. The nominated Shia militant groups include Hizbullah, Mehdi Militia and Hydri Taliban. Major Sunni militant groups include Tehreek-e-Taliban Islami Pakistan (TTIP) of Fazal Saeed Haqqani, TTP and Haqqani Network. The TTP is the most active group in Orakzai Agency.
It is pertinent to note here that Mullah Nazir Group and TTP are the main groups in South Waziristan and North Waziristan, which is inhabited by Utmanzai and Dawar tribes. There are dozens of militant groups working in the area in which Gul Bahadur Group, TTP, Haqqani Network, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Islamic Jihad Group (IJG), Punjabi Taliban and the Abu Akasha Iraqi Group are the major ones. After the death of Mullah Nazir in a drone attack this group has an alliance with the Mullah Gul Bahadur Group.
Militancy is spreading its wings in all cities of the province, especially to Peshawar, Hangu, Kohat, Swat, D I Khan, Mardan, Bannu, Nowshera and Lakki Marwat. Many girls and boys schools have been blown up in Mardan, Bannu, Nowshera and Lakki Marwat. Houses of various political leaders or workers have also been targeted by explosive devices in different areas.
Officials believe this terror-infected scenario in Pakistan suggests the need for some urgent counter-measures. The state should provide the people with basic necessities of life, as deprived people are quite easy to manipulate. The justice system needs to be improved. It is a fact that most of the terrorists, suicide bombers and target killers belong to poor families. ‘Poverty’ has been identified as a common motivator among such persons.
Diasporas and insurgents groups are working to destabilize the country. Mostly, Afghans, Uzbeks and some foreign nationals have been found to be involved in attacks, and several have been arrested during 2013 from FATA.