Negotiating with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is an extremely tricky matter because it involves not only armed to the teeth TTP or militant groups, but also local, national and international stakeholders. Since it makes the situation complex, a simple approach can have unexpected fallouts. The TTP’s leaders offer to PML-N quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif, JI chief Munawar Hassan and JUI leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman to become guarantors between them and the government is all the more fiddly as it sounds to be lacking sincerity.

On the one hand, the TTP has offered to talk with the government, while on the other, it has persistently carried out terrorist attacks  across Pakistan, showed distrust in Pak Army, disclosed its global agenda by commenting on Mali and attacked security forces in Waziristan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). There is deep dichotomy in its statements, future agenda, mindset and actions. At best, the offer for talks seem to be a ploy or a tactic to create wedge between the federal and provincial governments, as well as the army.

Needless to say, the TTP is well entrenched in Fata and has also spread its tentacles across the country. It has changed its objective from the opposition of the US-led war on terror to the implementation of ‘sharia’ in Pakistan. This means that its agenda, perhaps, will not end in 2014 (i.e. with the exit of the US/Nato forces from Afghanistan), but may continue forever.

Having said that, Hakimullah Mehsud, the chief of TTP and Maulvi Fazlullah, the leader of TTP Swat, are hard nuts to crack. They have tasted power now. They would never give it up easily. In addition to setting a pre-condition to release their hardcore accomplices from jails, they would ask Pakistan to pressurise the US to stop its drone campaign. It is obvious that Washington would disagree. For instance, just three days after the TTP’s offer for negotiations, the US drones fired six missiles in Spinwarm Tehsil of North Waziristan killing at least five people. In other words, al-Qaeda - that has raised the TTP militants as its foot soldiers - would like them to continue their activities, since it is facing annihilation at the hands of drone attacks.

Even if Pakistani government intends to initiate talks with TTP, directly or indirectly, it will be a difficult task because the group is divided in many fractions. All have their areas of jurisdiction and are linked with different organisations like al-Qaeda, Afghan Taliban, Haqqani Network, etc. Al-Qaeda, comprising Chechens, Uzbeks and other nationals based in Fata, would not lay down its arms in any case. Immediately after TTP’s offer of talks, a video appeared disclosing that TTP and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) have jointly formed ‘Ansarul Aseeran’ (the friends of prisoners) to attack jails for the release of their companions.

A befitting reply to the TTP offer ought to be the formulation of a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy. As history reveals, all terrorist campaigns can be eliminated with clearly laid out counter-terrorism strategies. It is imperative that the civilian government learn lessons from these examples and take initiatives in this regard.

Like all other departments, the role of the army and its agencies should also be clearly defined. Nobody should be allowed to take a solo flight, and formulate and follow its own policy.  The ideas of ‘strategic depth’, good and bad Taliban, aman lashkars, etc should be discussed with all the stakeholders for approval before they are materialised.

It is a fact that USA will not be happy about the peace talks with TTP. Washington’s biggest fear is that if there is less pressure from Pakistan on the militants, or it enters into a truce with them, the Pakistani Taliban will turn their attention to Afghanistan. For example, when the drone strikes were stopped for two months after Nato’s attack on the Salala check post, the TTP, Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda started reuniting and rejuvenating their strength.

Hence, taking cue from successful counter-terrorism practices of other countries, it is imperative to eliminate the upper tier of the terrorist networks before starting negotiations with the beleaguered lot. Whether it was the Khalistan struggle, LTTE or Irish Republican Army, negotiations always came later when the position of the militants was considerably weakened through the elimination of the top tier.

The essential prelude to talks with TTP is that it lays down its weapons and disbands itself. Nothing less than this can vouch for its credibility. Instead of lowering the guard as a result of this ruse, all stakeholders, political parties, provincial governments, army, etc, should employ collective wisdom and make unified efforts to exterminate this menace that has become an existential threat to Pakistan.

The writer is a security analyst. He holds a Master’s in Intelligence and International Security from War Studies Department, King’s College London.