The PML-N, PTI and an assortment of religio-political Islamic parties had been clamouring for ‘dialogue’ with the Taliban. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also constituted a four-member committee, comprising, PM’s Adviser Irfan Siddiqui, renowned journalist Rahimullah Yusufzaiâ€š former ambassador Rustam Shah Mehmand and former ISI official Major (R) Amir, for negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). But, the process soon hit the snags mainly because of intransigence on part of Taliban. Recently, an audacious attack on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi has baffled many Pakistanis regarding the ability of these savage beasts to penetrate easily into the sensitive installations of the country.
After the attack, TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid blatantly made the statement: ‘We have yet to take revenge for the deaths of hundreds of innocent tribal women and children in Pakistani airstrikes. It’s just the beginning; we have taken revenge for one (Hakimullah Mehsud), we have to take revenge for hundreds.’
This is the clear indication of their future plans.
The attack on Karachi Airport may be an indication that the fragile peace process is now practically dead because the attack took place at a time when government is trying to resurrect the process to engage Taliban militants in negotiations to end years of fighting. However, intensification in Taliban attacks dashed hopes for the continuation of the process.
This attack has given rise to many questions: Will this be the crisis that finally persuades Pakistan’s government and military to acknowledge the Taliban’s pernicious threat and confront it in a comprehensive way? Will the government still prefer to engage them in dialogue?
In the past, Taliban have been increasingly violent to destroy the Pakistani state. They have attacked, among other targets, General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi, Mehran Naval Base in Karachi, an air base in Kamra and an airport in Peshawar. The brazen assault on the Karachi airport takes the campaign to a new level, striking at the country’s largest city and its commercial hub. Though militants and gangs operate freely there, Karachi is home to State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Karachi Stock Exchange, headquarters of almost the whole banking industry, and is the centre of hopes for a desperately needed economic resurgence.
Pakistan is at a crossroads now. The country is facing grave decisions that could determine the future viability of the Pakistani state. Countless innocent civilians have lost their lives while the Pak Army has also suffered thousands of casualties in its ongoing fight against the TTP and its allies. Given the gravity of the situation, Mian Nawaz Sharif is under growing public pressure to take a determined action in order to eliminate terrorists.
Though the government took many steps to bring Taliban to table and put a full stop to the militancy, yet the TTP has demonstrated that it feels no obligation to honour any commitments it makes.
The TTP signalled its true intentions on February 17, when it announced that it had beheaded 23 FC soldiers that it had captured and posted a video of the murders on the Internet. This effectively predicated the end of the talks; as it was proved later. Many analysts and political parties, especially PPP, assert that it is best to ‘get it over with,’ in one hard-fought campaign rather than to prolong the agony of the country by holding repeated rounds of fruitless negotiations with a feckless enemy who has no intention of honouring its commitments.
At present, the TTP continues to use its FATA safe havens to conduct widespread terrorist attacks against the people of Pakistan. The current state of affairs has increased pressure on the government of Pakistan to take decisive action to end the TTP’s reign of terror. With negotiations unlikely to bear fruit, the Nawaz Sharif government may soon conclude that it must authorize an offensive by the Pakistan Army into Waziristan to stop the bloodshed. This falls within the purview of the Pakistan government, as it is required to provide security to its citizens. It now appears that concerted action against the TTP may be the only way to provide this guarantee of security. In addition, the TTP has made the Army of Pakistan a target of its attacks and atrocities. The Army has the right to respond by making the perpetrators of these attacks face the music.
The Taliban warning of more attacks, after Karachi incident, indicates that they are no longer interested in the dialogue process and would opt for an armed confrontation with the authorities. This, in effect, would justify a massive military offensive by the Pakistani security forces in the Taliban’s last stronghold in North Waziristan. The government also has earlier announced that it will respond to any act of terrorism using the full force of the military.
Support for the peace dialogue in the country has almost diminished. Now the government is under tremendous pressure to act against the Taliban. The opposition parties had previously thrown weight behind Sharif’s policy to engage the Taliban in a peaceful dialogue. However the political leaders are now urging the government to opt for a decisive action.
The government must now come out with effective measures to secure Pakistan from all threats and improve law and order situation in the country which is its constitutional duty.