The elected government of Pakistan remains eager to negotiate with the Taliban, even as their partner-to-be has made it clear that they have no such interest. The new TTP leaderís accomplishments include ordering the shooting of a 14-year-girl, burning 400 girlsí schools in Swat, recording videos of beheading Pakistani soldiers and enforcing public beheadings and floggings in Swat. Fazlullah is the very definition of a terrorist and Swat is just now recovering from the last time the government tried negotiating with him.
Another significant flaw in the negotiating strategy is that the TTP is not a monolithic body. Fazlullah is an outsider living in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan and most likely will not be accepted by the Mehsud tribe which dominates the TTP. Internal conflict is sure to follow between the various groups within the TTP leading to further disarray amongst the assortment of groups. Also, these factions are united in their goal to establish a barbaric version of a religion-based caliphate in violation of the Pakistani state and its Constitution. To agree to those extreme terms is tantamount to waving a big, white surrender flag. In its defence, the government has defined its own preconditions for negotiations which include the Taliban recognising the Constitution of Pakistan and putting down their weapons. The TTP were quick to respond that if they were willing to put down their arms and accept the Constitution, then there would be no need for dialogue. They followed up with demands including a complete withdrawal of the military from the tribal areas.
Politicians, including Imran Khan, continue to state that military operations have not achieved much. Neglecting facts and making statements like these is not just misleading. These claims are actually harmful to those who have risked life and limb to reopen the Indus Highway, unblock the Kohat tunnel and clear out the Mohmand Agency. If it wasnít for Pakistanís military forces, Bajaur would still be governed by the TTP and the network of 156 caves linked to Afghanistan would still be intact, Dir would remain a militant stronghold, Orakzai would have no functioning government, and Mangal Bagh would continue his control of Khyber. All major airlines had halted service to the Peshawar airport due to rocket attacks. The city of Tank used to be known as Taliban Town, Shariah was imposed in Malakand, Buner was overrun, the motorway was interdicted and Islamabad was in range. Throughout these struggles, deals were made and repeatedly violated. Research the Shakai Agreement, the Sararogha Treaty, the Malakand agreement, etc. to see for yourselves. It wasnít until hard military operations began in 2007 that these areas were cleared.
Pakistani politicians are not showing the will or desire to take on the Taliban. Extremists will not respect or adhere to a timid approach; similarly, the superior courts need to demonstrate the will and resolve to prosecute terrorists. The only dialogue which needs to take place is a recital of the Constitution to these brutes. The Constitution outlines a governing structure and if any person refuses to abide by it, they must face legal consequences.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2013.
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