The Prime Minister (PM) of Pakistan, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, appeared in the National Assembly after six months on January 29, 2013 and announced the formation of a four-member committee to give talks another chance. The PM made his first attempt for talks with the terrorists by convening an All Parties Conference (APC) in September last year. The offer was responded to by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) by killing Major General Sanaullah and speeding up terror attacks on civilians and security personnel across the country.
In the four months since the APC to this newly formed committee, this country has witnessed over 20 terror strikes. The government’s inaction reflects the lack of a concrete plan against the terrorists and the latter’s perpetuation of an uninterrupted reign of terror through the murders of innocent Pakistanis. The government has repeatedly invited the TTP for talks but the latter has rejected them, conditioning participation to the stoppage of the US drone strikes and announcement of a government ceasefire.
There was wide speculation of an operation against the terrorists. That notion was even reinforced by the PML-N’s Rana Sanaullah. There was huge confusion about the government’s plan of whether it would pursue the path of an operation or talks to curb militancy. The PM’s formation of a four-member committee, comprising of two eminent journalists, a former ambassador and an intelligence officer, cleared the fog of confusion. It is now crystal clear that, after the failure of the APC, the government still wants talks with the terrorists. The role of the four-member committee can be just of a mediator between the terrorists and the government. There has not been given a timeframe for the talks, which makes it the first question mark on the fate of the talks.
When the APC could not make any progress after the passage of four months, what is the guarantee of this committee making any headway? Surprisingly, the committee has no religious scholar to learn from about the true and acceptable version of Islam, and pass from the terrorists only those Islamic demands to the government that can be acceptable to all communities in the country. The TTP have been slaughtering Shia pilgrims and Christians just on the basis of their faith. The TTP has many factions. It declined responsibility for a recent attack on polio workers in Karachi but it also said that some of its hardline groups may have carried out that operation. The government has not yet cleared which of the TTP factions its committee will approach and what strategy it will adopt against hardliners within the TTP and breakaway factions.
We have not been winning the war on terror since 2001 because of our rulers’ version of the ‘good’ Taliban and the ‘bad’ Taliban. Similarly, now the rulers have again divided the TTP into two groups: the group that wants talks and the group that opposes talks. The government says it will have talks with the former group and will take action against the latter group. Are our leaders really unable to understand the well known fact that all the TTP groups are interconnected and have the same motive of introducing their own version of sharia by establishing their parallel courts and having a say in the affairs of the state?
The PM has been experimenting on journalists. First, he appointed two known journalists, Najam Sethi as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman and Irfan Siddiqui as his advisor. This first step was to cover up the failings of the PML-N government, and now two journalists have been made part of the committee to spare his government the media’s criticism of its policy on the war on terror. There is ample proof that the TTP attacks on civilians and security personnel will go on unabated. It is for sure that the TTP may disown such attacks just to portray that these are not its acts, for instance the way the TTP disowned attacks on a Christian church soon after the APC. The way the PML-N has been accommodating journalists on prime posts, its government might be free of media criticism but will it think of the masses that are not being protected from terrorist strikes? There has not been any announced ceasefire between the government and the TTP and the US has also not made any statement about stopping the drones. In this scenario, there are very dim chances of any progress by the formed committee.
We all know and agree that talks are a solution for every quarrel and dispute but the main dispute here is that the TTP wants its own version of sharia and an end to US drone strikes. Both demands are extremely difficult to meet. This is so because the TTP-proposed sharia lacks tolerance and freedom of religion so it is unacceptable to the majority of sects. Stoppage of US drone strikes is not possible till the US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan. The TTP have broken two past deals with the previous governments and have rejected last year’s offer by the APC for talks. This nation is helpless and it keeps hoping against hope but are our rulers helpless too that they must turn to talks once again?
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