It is not just talking to the enemy that makes these negotiations controversial. It is about talking to those who consider themselves more powerful than the state and its security apparatus built to secure the nation against such aggressors. We have been talking but we have been killed right, left and centre. It is as if nothing is working. It is just the Taliban holding sway over the country. The government on the other hand, deferential as usual following every attack, announces a temporary suspension of talks unless the Taliban stop their attacks. But hardly a day passes by without registering an attack. With the latest terrorist episode wherein 23 Frontier Constabulary (FC) soldiers were heinously beheaded and allowed to rot on the roadside, talks have been silenced, and not just for a while but until the Taliban give up killing. The mullah community sitting on the fence is certainly hopeful about the resumption of talks and have asked the government to develop a keener understanding of the mental state of the Taliban. The Taliban claim the FC soldiers have been killed in retaliation. The Taliban blames the security agencies for killing their people in custody. Prior to this, the killing of police officers in Karachi was also claimed by the Taliban to have been carried out to avenge the killing of women, children and others from the Taliban by the security forces in the war-torn areas, especially Peshawar and FATA. Every attack, if owned by the Taliban, is now attributed to a reaction to an action of the government that had rubbed the Taliban the wrong way. So far the pattern of attacks has been consistent, however, the pattern of taking responsibility for the attacks has not. With some 40 odd groups of the Taliban operating in the country, now every time a new Taliban group is claimed to be messing with the state. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has shown its helplessness in controlling these groups. But the fact that they are all serving the same purpose and targeting a common enemy, with equal focus and clarity of strategy, shows that the nexus does exist. Either symbolically or literally, an umbilical cord unites them all. And it is here that the problem lies. It is another story if the government, in its attempt to get false relief, thinks that those talking to it are not directly involved. This is the old mythology once again of good and bad Taliban. Following the gruesome killing of the FC soldiers, the government apparently wearing a stern face has said to the Taliban to either follow the ceasefire option or forget about the talks. The Taliban have made innumerable promises to stop the war, especially when the talks are in progress. Every promise has been broken unabashedly. The Taliban’s tactics are obvious, and speak for themselves. If only the government were to open its eyes and see the glaringly obvious truth. They have used the talks as camouflage before as well to regroup and regain strength. The time buying formula had been used ever since. With the Afghanistan cauldron coming to a new pass, and their brethren set to get an imminent position of strength there, expecting the Taliban here to retreat now is asking for a bit too much. The government has perhaps failed to read the pulse of the times accurately. No one suggests that talks should be forsaken completely. Negotiations have always been used simultaneously with fighting to eventually seal peace deals. The prerequisite for such an outcome though is the intelligent use of force, wherever and whenever required. Unless the writ of the government is recognised and the state’s power to bring the terrorists to their knees is demonstrated, talks would be considered a farce by onlookers and an excellent tactic by the militants to fool the government.
One hopes the meeting between the prime minister and the army chief has taken full measure of the situation, especially when the other side is so determined not to hold back. *