Negotiating with the TTP

It has been officially announced that talks with TTP are in progress and the Afghan Government is acting as a facilitator. An in-camera briefing has been arranged by the Intelligence Agencies for the Parliamentary Committee on Security, in the presence of services chiefs. On the political side it was attended by the apex leadership of all the parties, except PTI. The communique after the briefing was encouraging. The importance of peace in the region, good relations with Afghanistan, seeking an arrangement within the confines of Pakistan’s Constitution, and political ownership have all been emphasised.
At one point, the TTP had a significant presence in the country, but that is not the case anymore thanks to the valiant efforts and sacrifices of the Armed Forces. Their network has been destroyed and uprooted to a large extent, and our forces have sent a clear message that they have the will and capacity to keep fighting if the situation demands.
Now, the historical fact is that every conflict culminates and closes with the help of negotiations. All great wars finally ended with the help of talks and agreements. This has even been the case with regards to insurgent groups, as was witnessed between the UK and the IRA, the US and Afghan Taliban, among several others. In any war, the purpose is largely to defeat the enemy mentally, economically, psychologically, or even physically. But it is seldom that the conflict continues till the opponent is physically eliminated. In case of this conflict, one side (TTP) has been largely defeated. Most of the perpetrators of heinous crimes, like APS, have been eliminated. Any remnants may be prosecuted under the law.
As long as a potential agreement, if any, is discussed in the parliament, is non violative of our Constitution, owned and endorsed by the civilian government, it should be adopted to put this matter to rest. However, there will be many opposed to the idea of peace with TTP for a number of reasons.
1. US and India along with their friends would perhaps want the Pakistan Army to remain entangled for as long as possible for certain reasons. India would not mind the fact that Pakistan is engaged on two fronts. Further, the US would endeavour to utilize Pakistan as a proxy to keep Pak-Afghan border hot with a view to ensuring instability in the region, creating problems for China, Afghanistan, CARs, Iran and Russia. To convince Pakistan government and establishment that such operations are in Pakistan’s interest, the US could employ coercive instruments or tactics.
2. Some intellectuals are fearful of Afghan Taliban’s world view and their interpretation of Islam, and are against their rule in a neighbouring State and thus would be against any kind of engagement. Whereas we all understand that internal politics and systems of any country should not discourage us from nurturing good friendly relations. Examples of our excellent relations, irrespective of their internal systems and policies, are China and Saudi Arabia. Any negative attitude towards Afghanistan on such grounds will fritter away all opportunities of outreach to CARs and trade with and through Afghanistan.
3. ISIK, BLA, BRA and similar dissident and sponsored groups would also like to throw a spanner in the works, preventing any positive outcome of peace talks in the region, because a confusion ridden environment is best suited for their activities. For that purpose, they may offer allegiance to splinter groups of TTP and also carryout operations under the guise of the Taliban to antagonise the Pakistani establishment, which may misconstrue such attempts violative of peace agreement by TTP.
4. Some of the local elements that thrive under the tense environment in erstwhile FATA, are also likely to oppose the talks, or any agreement that has the potential to usher peace in this region.
Keeping all the above aspects in mind, it can be discerned that the talks with TTP will face great impediments before a final agreement is reached can be reached considering the variety of obstacles in the way. When it comes to the parliament, majority of the members should be supportive of peace talks, but achieving a total consensus would be an unrealistic endeavour. However, majority of Pakistanis, diplomats and security personnel are likely to support a peace agreement with the TTP, and encourage better relations with Afghanistan, provided it does not exhibit any weakness on the part of our state.
The security forces’ fatigue due to long duration of operations, dwindling economic resource base, and avoidance of two front scenario, are some additional factors that may convince the state to finalise an agreement with TTP and Afghan Taliban. But it will only assume permanence if the talks are spearheaded by a true representative Jirga, and if guarantees provided by Afghan Government and the local tribes where the TTP remnants will fall back. Also, a special task force will have to maintain vigilance and keep an eye on all the returnees for quite some time.
Peace is always the preferred option, but it only works if it is enforced from a position of strength, aided with ample verifiable guarantees and monitoring mechanisms to ensure prevention of intrigues and the resurgence of any evil. We are confident that the state of Pakistan is well aware of all such nuances related to these talks and will decide a course of action that is in the interests of the country and its people.

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