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Peace Talks with TTP: Challenges and Opportunities I

It is high times for Pakistan to capitalise the situation and chalk-out an objective plan to bring the splinters to mainstream society by offering them incentives and jobs after a thorough process of de-radicalisation.

After fighting an unwinnable and unpopular war in Afghanistan, the United States has finally come to the conclusion that the only military solution of the Afghan quagmire will never be possible and now is finding ways and means to bring Taliban to negotiation table, especially after Obama’s announcement of withdrawal by 2014. Pakistan government, keeping in view this shift in US strategy, has realised the fact that if US and its allied forces can have talks with their ‘worst enemies’ why cannot Pakistan. Salalah tragedy proved to be a catalyst and in an All Parties Conference (APC), Pakistan’s political and military leadership unanimously decided to give this approach a practical shape.

Albeit, both sides have confirmed the secret process of talks, still many analysts and observers doubt the sincerity of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leadership to surrender just for the sake of peace, as many similar peace deals were signed with TTP in past but the militants renege those deals so peace could not be restored in FATA. Do the militants really want to give peace a chance this time or is it a tactic to buy time? Even if the better sense has prevailed over some of these radicals, what will be the agenda of the talks between them?  Peace at the stake of what? What could be the different dimensions of this deal, possible challenges and opportunities for the state of Pakistan? What could be the ways to come out of this imbroglio?

“The actual reason of this skepticism is the radical/extremist ideology which is one of their major sources of motivation behind this whole play of blood and death.”
The challenges the state will have to face in this whole process of talks will be complex and manifold. How can one expect longlasting peace from the ruthless warriors who have wreaked havoc to the mosques, shrines, schools, hospitals, and numerous other installations of the country, slaughtering hundreds of innocent civilians, including men, women and even children? The actual reason of this skepticism is the radical/extremist ideology which is one of their major sources of motivation behind this whole play of blood and death. TTP keeps ideological compatibility with al-Qaeda. It will be greatest challenge to reconcile with the ones having such fanatic ideology. It is known to everybody that these people in their writings and sermons vociferously declare the people, government, armed forces, and all of the state’s institutions as ‘Taghoot’ (i.e. un-Islamic of worst category which must be destroyed or replaced by the use of brutal force), let alone accepting the writ of the state. So question arises, is there any abrupt change has occurred in their viewpoint that they are now ready to reconcile? This point needs serious considerations.

Then we need to assess TTP’s possible demands for reconciliation and their cherished outcome of these talks. Their terms and conditions could be as following:
Ceasefire and withdrawal of troops from the area;
Enforcement of their version of ‘Islamic Sharia’ in the FATA;
Release of their leadership and cronies who are in Pakistan’s custody;
They will demand the government to keep its eyes closed on their free movement across the border to fight against allied forces.

Everyone of these anticipated demands is in itself a challenge and is out of acceptability.

Firstly, the withdrawal of forces even if TTP agrees to surrender would mean giving a free hand to these elements to regroup and resurface at a larger scale. It will also result in uninterrupted massive intrusion of external elements which actually help in recruitment, and then they finance, train, equip and identify the soft targets for these terrorists. It is an undeniable fact that unless the logistic supply or financial assistance is not crippled, no insurgency can be eliminated.

The enforcement of their Takfeeri ideology means to implement a system of brutality in which their own interpretation of Islam and ‘Islamic laws’ will make the people suffer even more than from what they have been suffering since last many years due to the unceasing inhuman and dreadful acts of this outfit. Imagine the plight of the people in a system in which there will be no schools for girls, where English language would be considered as Haram (strictly forbidden), women even if would come out of their houses at extreme necessity would shot dead and people would be beheaded frequently for committing some ‘Kufr’, and where al-Qaeda fighters would be considered as ‘sacred guests’.  This system will not only blow yet again a severe damage to the already tarnished reputation of Pakistan in the comity of nations but also become a safest epicenter on the surface of the earth for international terrorists. Then the permission to promulgate this system in one specific area will not keep them confined to that particular area but this will have domino effects and they will struggle hard to spread their ‘great cause’ to mainstream Pakistani society and for that very ‘divine’ objective they can again resort for violent means if any power would dare resisted that.

Then giving green signal to them to fight against Nato-Isaf forces in Afghanistan would also have serious repercussions for Pakistan. First of all it will bring Pak-US already perilous ties to a level of hostility and antagonism. The unbridled movements of these fighters will also means more drone attacks, more collateral damage, resultantly higher level of resentment among masses, thus more recruitment of this ‘Jihad’. So, while negotiations with TTP all these dimensions should be kept in perspective.

Again the release of those fanatics who are actually pioneers of this cold-blooded and merciless group would also have irreversible implications. Who is going to control all of them after they would be set free to trap the youth for their personal objectives? There has to be a very well established mechanism for their surveillance and to make them agreed to the terms and conditions of the state.

Despite all the above-mentioned challenges there are some opportunities and positivists for the state in talks with TTP. First, it should be kept in view that military means can never solve any conflict, especially in guerilla warfare and insurgencies like this. Use of force, if inevitable, can be one of the tiers of the grand strategy to curb insurgencies but not the only option because violence only breeds violence.

As it is a fact that in the successful selective operations by Pakistan’s highly professional armed forces the TTP mainstream leadership has been eliminated and that still managed to survive is on run. Top brass alive has moved to Afghanistan. The reports emanating from an authentic source have revealed that there have occurred deflections in TTP and many of its foot-soldiers have joined the pro-Pakistan militants who are against launching terror campaign against Pakistan. Similarly, in the history of TTP it is for the first time that one of its top commanders, Maulvi Waliur Rehman Mehsud has made assurances that he has strictly ordered to halt the training of suicide bombers and publicly vowed not to launch further attacks on Pakistan. So it is high times for Pakistan to capitalise the situation and chalkout an objective plan to bring the splinters to mainstream society by offering them incentives and jobs after a thorough process of de-radicalisation.

Moreover, as it was witnessed that on December 18, 2011, in the aftermath of Slalah carnage a massive gathering was organised under the banner of Difa-e-Pakistan Council in which religious parties of all schools of thought expressed their loyalties for state and pledged to render all sorts of sacrifices for the defence of Pakistan along with Pakistan armed forces at the time of any critical eventuality. As some of these religious parties have somewhat ideological association with TTP-, being followers of Deobandi version of Islam, can play a crucial role of inter-lockers and mediators between state and TTP.

Likewise, after the announcement of withdrawal of troops by Obama, this is talk of the town that as Afghan Taliban will eventually be the rulers of Afghanistan and it will mean no or minimum presence of Indians there. It is now an open secret that concrete evidences have been unearthed according to which Indians are major source of finance for TTP. This is also one of the reasons that TTP has now proactively aspiring for ceasefire as they know that once aid and abet of India ceased, they will no more be capable enough to continue their lethal war against Pakistanis. So this factor should be kept in mind that TTP is badly need of reconciliation and should be brought to talks on state’s own proviso.

It is real time for Pakistan to play its cards wisely to curb this malady once for all. Pragmatic and well-nit strategy should be made and all the stake-holders especially the common people should be brought on board before these talks reach to some decisive point. Workable policies and long-term planning should be state’s very first priority to address the grievances of the people of FATA and proper education and development of the area can help to turn the dream of ‘giving peace a chance’ into reality.

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