It is simply amazing how Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar continues to insist on his ‘wisdom’ vis-à-vis the struggle against terrorism in the face of the ground realities and recent developments. In a press interaction on Sunday, Mr Nisar again wound up his by now tired arguments about the need to engage in talks with the Taliban. The only ‘advance’ in Chaudhry Nisar’s perception appears to be the grudging acceptance of the possibility that not all the small and scattered Taliban groups may jump enthusiastically to the talks table the minister has laid out with invitations, but which is a ‘party’ to which no one appears to have come so far. In Chaudhry Nisar’s mind, the old and by now discredited notion of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban is still alive and kicking when the entire country has moved on from this myth on the basis of irrefutable evidence that no such distinction exists or can be drawn to distinguish various Taliban groups. Chaudhry Nisar trots out the old and by now limp argument that those who respond positively to the government’s talks offer will be welcomed, while those who resort to arms will be dealt with with force. The government’s commitment to talks, the minister asserts, should not be taken as weakness. With due respect, that is exactly how it is being taken by a whole swathe of public opinion, and certainly by the Taliban themselves, who seem to be having a good chuckle up their sleeve at the government’s naïveté. The minister even says the dialogue process cannot proceed if the Taliban continue to attack civilians and government officials. He should have added politicians after the deadly attacks on Amir Muqam of the PML-N and the prime minister’s adviser, in which he fortunately escaped unscathed but members of his security detail were killed, and Mian Mushtaq Ahmed of the ANP, who proved less lucky and was killed along with his companions. The country is still reeling from and commemorating the assassination of Karachi SP CID Chaudhry Aslam by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the sacrifice of schoolboy Aitzaz Hussain while stopping a suicide bomber. What it does not need is the usual pusillanimous statements from government ministers charged with stopping the mayhem and murder that has the country in its grip. What people want to hear is a clear exposition of a strategy to take out the Taliban, but unfortunately, that desire still goes abegging. The TTP meantime is revelling in its chief, Maulana Fazlullah, and its spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, being named in the murder of Chaudhry Aslam.
A clearer stance has emerged from Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon, who says the All Parties Conference mandate (which the federal ministers never tire of reminding us of) envisaged no talks until and unless the Taliban lay down their arms. Far from this eminently sensible demand being fulfilled, the Taliban have responded to every peace overture, and especially since hardliner Maulana Fazlullah took over as TTP chief, with bullet and bomb. Chaudhry Nisar may just therefore be missing a partner for peace talks. It is advisable that the interior minister stop embarrassing himself and his government by spurious claims about progress in talks with ‘some’ groups (unnamed and unknown so far), and wake up to reality. Even if, by some stretch of the imagination, some peripheral groups agree to accept the government’s terms for talks (which include, according to Chaudhry Nisar, the non-acceptance of any demands that go against the constitution), as long as the main umbrella group, the TTP, seems to be wedded to its programme of taking over the state by force of arms and turning it into some local version of the hell the Afghan Taliban visited on their country while in power, where is the space or credibility of the talks process? Unless the government, the armed forces and the intelligence community come together to formulate a stringent policy against the Taliban that helps deliver a few telling blows, even the possibility of some elements being persuaded to come to the table (and lay down their arms) is as remote as the furthest stars in the sky. *