GOVERNMENT-TTP PEACE TALKS; A REVIEW

GOVERNMENT-TTP PEACE TALKS; A REVIEW

Talks with TTP are a history now; at least till the operation Zarb-e-Azb is underway. The Government of Pakistan had initiated the peace process in February 2014 in a bid to end the TTP’s seven-years insurgency, which has claimed thousands of lives. The Taliban leaders had presented three demands to the government as important stepping-stone for talks. First demand by Taliban was the release of non-combatants women and children, second was the withdrawal of the army from South Waziristan, and the third was halt in drone attacks. The government committee on the other hand demanded cessation of all attacks and hostilities against the security forces and civilians targets. The government reconstituted the committee too to keep a tight leash on the negotiations. But it hardly worked. On the sidelines there were reports pouring in that the military establishment sure of its success in an all out military operation approached at least two members of the Government negotiating committee to relinquish the peace talks. One member of the government-appointed committee disclosed the Establishment was ready to make peace with Khan Sajna in South Waziristan but not with Mullah Fazullah, who has $500,000 government bounty on his head, whose hands are tainted with the blood of Major General Sanaullah Khan Niazi in 2013.

As expected, the TTP hostilities and government retaliations resulted in a halt in the negotiations. After hiatus of six weeks gap the government through its Interior Minister expressed renewed resolve
to revive peace talks with the TTP on 16th May in an effort to seek safe corridors for polio campaigns in Pakistan. The Interior Minister blamed Taliban infighting and the delay in release of noncombatants
prisoners by Taliban as the main stumbling blocks. He however hinted a military solution could be sought if talks failed to bear full fruition. Interestingly, the very next day a member of government negotiating committee expressed little hope for the success of talks and showed ignorance of any effort to salvage the stalled peace process.

Come May 20, 2014 and a Chinese tourist was kidnapped in D.I.Khan, TTP Shehryar Mehsud faction claimed responsibility for kidnapping plus three TTP militants arrested from Karachi. Shehryar
Mehsud is the commander of slained Hakimullah and is pitted in a pitched turf battle with Khan Sajna. Analysts believe that the TTP upped the attacks after September, 2013 All Parties Conference
(APC) to pressurize the government to submit to talks and that too on its terms.

The Government had feared that if the talks failed the militants would carry out retaliatory suicide strikes and bombing in big cities and resultant flight of foreign investors if the talks failed and military
operations ensued. This fear was not misplaced. The Karachi airport terrorist attack confirmed it beyond any doubt. But now the government’s resolve to talk with TTP has diminished and the support of all political parties, who had unanimously backed talks in APC, seems to be petering out. Former Ambassador Zafar Hilali added that the war with TTP is a long drawn tussle which might not end anytime soon. The strategy should be to try to contain them in their strongholds and then total annihilation. The security and intelligence agencies should make coordinated and concerted efforts to achieve this containment.

The government on its part should keep a vigilant eye on the militants so that they cannot expand their influence and activities during ceasefire or dialogue process. It should step up intelligence work
and coordination between several law-enforcement agencies and provide better training and equipment. Last but not least it should introduce administrative, political and legal reforms in FATA coupled with comprehensive economic and infrastructure development programs to wean away people from the militancy.

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