Why Pakistan should not talk to the TTP

Published: February 9, 2013

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan (L) and with new TTP member Adnan Rasheed address a press conference in Shabtoi, a village in South Waziristan, on February 2, 2013. PHOTO: AFP

There has always been a lingering suspicion that the PML-N has a somewhat soft spot for some of the more extreme elements in society. The party has been seen as too close for comfort to some sectarian organisations in Punjab and its condemnation of the Taliban has usually fallen short of being full-throated. Furthermore, the fact of the matter is that the founder of the party owes his entry into politics to the greatest supporter of extremist groups, General Ziaul Haq. Then there was Nawaz Sharif’s own rule as prime minister, where he tried to get Sharia made the law of the land and have himself elevated to the position of “ameer-ul-momineen” but his government was dismissed before that could materialise.

Now, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has staked out a position on the prospect of holding negotiations with the Taliban and he is firmly in favour of the idea. He wants the government to take the idea of talks very seriously and immediately work to initiate them. At the same time, he has refused the TTP’s request that he act as a guarantor for the talks, saying that given the past record of this government he cannot insure their participation. This is a typical Nawaz Sharif manoeuvre. He is trying to come across as a man of peace while blaming the government for its violent and double-crossing tendencies. Yes, this government has been reluctant to hold talks with the Taliban, but that is because they were burned soon after taking power. The PPP and its allies had been very keen to negotiate with the Taliban in Swat but once those broke down it realised that the military option was the only way to go. In fact, several peace deals in the past with the Taliban failed because they did not honour them and used them to consolidate and regroup.

Simply calling for negotiations is not enough. Those asking for that must answer some difficult questions. They should be asked whether the TTP’s past refusal to follow agreements signed with the government do not give cause to pause before advocating such a policy measure. Also, what kind of message is being given to the ordinary Pakistani — that if you indulge in violence and wage a war of terrorism against the country and state, you will be rewarded with a talks offer. By definition, a negotiation involves a certain amount of give and take. What exactly should be given to the Taliban given the fact that in the past, if a little bit was conceded they took a mile? Are they willing to hand over the tribal areas in return for a promise of peace that is unlikely to be kept? Obviously the TTP will refuse to disarm before negotiations so there is no way of preventing them from continuing to carry out attacks. Furthermore, those arguing for talks and criticising the government for being unwilling to negotiate ignore the unfortunate reality that it is the military which is the ultimate power broker and that no talks can be held unless it agrees. In that context, the army chief’s recent remarks that Pakistan’s number one enemy is now internal, i.e., militants, doesn’t tie up well with this push for talks.

The fact of the matter is that those who think that the militants will lay down their arms and blend in with mainstream society once the Americans leave Afghanistan or if there are talks, are sadly mistaken. The past has shown that this is unlikely to happen because the overarching aim of the militants, while fighting the Americans and Western forces in Afghanistan and other parts of the Muslim world, is to impose their own version of Sharia. This is something that those pushing for talks needs to understand and perhaps they are either being naïve or are sympathetic to the cause of the Taliban.

The Taliban is a force that must be defeated, not accommodated. That will only be possible if there is unity among political parties on this issue. Terrorists who have killed thousands of Pakistani civilians, soldiers, police and other law-enforcement personnel need to be dealt with an iron hand and defeated — that’s the way the rest of the world does it.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2013.

Reader Comments (29)

  • sami
    Feb 9, 2013 - 2:10AM

    pakistan’s biggest enemies are USA and Isreal not Taliban.

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  • abc
    Feb 9, 2013 - 2:21AM

    Very well put, if only our nation could understand that the TTP is an enemy that deserves no mercy and must be destroyed

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  • Ahmed
    Feb 9, 2013 - 2:44AM

    Sir you argument are well suited for a super power not for a country that is at the verge of financial meltdown. Pakistan has many enemies internal and external and even super powers has shown the tail for being able to defeat the insurgents.
    I agree you with all their dirty deeds but violence is never the solution and dead ones are never coming back and we are not fighting an external power. If u want to live in fools ‘s paradise then fine but if US and Nato couldn’t defeat the taliban who are we ? We have not been put down Baluchistan you want Pakistani public dying until we can defeat the taliban we can’t if we could we would have done long time. I give Nawaz Sharif credit for his maturity and insightful analysis because we can’t afford this conflict and neither is our army capable of stopping it.

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  • pk
    Feb 9, 2013 - 3:08AM

    Very well reasoned and articulated article!

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  • Raj - USA
    Feb 9, 2013 - 3:37AM

    What is so funny is that Pakistan is trying to install the government of its choice in Afghanistan. TTP says that Mulla Omar is their leader and they would follow whatever he decides. Mulla Omar is sitting right in Pakistan’s territory Waziristan and Pakistan army cannot even enter there. Sheikh Rasheed request Mulla Omar to grant permission for IK to visit Waziristan. IK keeps quiet and does not take this as an offense or insult to Pakistan. So, in effect Afghanistan is ruling Pakistan. If there are negotiations with TTP, Pakistan will be negotiating with an Afghan National (and may also include Uzbeks, Chechens, Arabs, etc.) to change its own constitution and laws. By constantly preaching ummah, muslim world, etc. Pakistan has totally lost its national identity.

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  • Mirza
    Feb 9, 2013 - 4:01AM

    A timely editorial by ET thanks for that. Taliban and NS are “pir Bhai” (brothers) and S. Arabia is their Pir. This is no secret that Taliban have been aided by S. Arabia and so was NS and his family for almost a decade. In addition there is an understanding between PML-N and the extremists of Jhung area. NS has been demanding the secular govt to start talking (legitimizing) to Taliban even though they are bent upon killing thousands of Pakistanis.

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  • sauce
    Feb 9, 2013 - 4:09AM

    Keep crying ET but talks are the only way forward. The only reason you hate Taliban so much is because of their islamist ideology. If you have problem with islam you should first begin protesting against our constitution. Go ahead I want to see how many people you can gather…..probably less then a single madrassah lol

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  • numbersnumbers
    Feb 9, 2013 - 4:24AM

    @sami:
    Wow, did your keyboard run out of ink????
    Please tell us WHY “pakistan’s biggest enemies are USA and Isreal, not Taliban”!!
    Along the way also tell us just WHO has killed some 30,000 Pakistanis (and maimed probably twice that number) over the last decade or so!

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  • numbersnumbers
    Feb 9, 2013 - 4:29AM

    @Ahmed:
    As you should know, insurgencies are very difficult to defeat when a neighboring country offers safe havens for them (insurgents/terrorists) to train and rearm, protected by a state that sees them as “useful ASSETS”!!!

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  • Saeed
    Feb 9, 2013 - 6:59AM

    Pakistan needs a ‘Sri Lanka’ solution. The low/high level war waged by Tamil terrorists was finally over when Sri Lankans decided to kill the top leadership and destroyed their sanctuaries…For 30 years Tamil tigers terrorized the country while pretending to be fighting for greater Tamil rights. during that time, they ravaged the country with suicide bombs and executions of innocents.
    For 30 years, Sri Lankans were like Pakistanis are today, they were paralyzed and believed in ‘magic’ that somehow if they could put their heads in sands, tigers and their many supporters would just go away and they could live happily ever after….. Remember it took them 30 years to finally have the courage to stand up against killers. Today, Sri Lanka is back on the world map…commerce, cricket, tourism is back and life is thriving again.
    All we have to ask a simple question…how much time do we have and how many lives we can feed to monster?

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  • Raj - USA
    Feb 9, 2013 - 7:15AM

    @Ahmed:
    This logic of saying US has lost the war and is retreating amazes me. US/NATO have won the war and achieved all their purposes. The war was started to ensure that terrorists are no longer not able to target US and Europe. All terrorists have been pushed to and confined within this region. No more 9/11′s, 7/11′s, Madrid bombings, shoe bomber, etc. Now Pakistan and Afghanistan have to live with these terrorists, They can choose to be ruled by them or wipe them out. One thing is for sure, these terrorists shall not be able to move out of Pakistan and Afghanistan to conduct any terror activities anywhere outside Pakistan, even in India. As Afghanistan is also wiping out the terrorists, these shall either be killed or move to Pakistan. Ultimately, it is Pakistan alone that shall be living with these terrorists and fear will engulf everyone, every time the prayer session ends at the mosques.

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  • Bravo
    Feb 9, 2013 - 7:40AM

    Author got it absolutely spot on!

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  • noorilhuda
    Feb 9, 2013 - 9:58AM

    We should not negotiate with terrorists. That’s the only way to go. Taliban do not accept Pakistan as an entity. They are mostly Pushtuns (with Punjabi Baloch Urdu Spkg sympathizers and enablers) and have a totally different mindset and way of life to that of an ordinary Muslim living in Pakistan – whether from middle classes or the upper. Taliban militants haven’t worked a day in their life for anything else other than killing and torturing people! Their spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan should NOT be given airtime and Taliban should not be given broad coverage. Taliban will never build anything, nor get educated nor lay down their arms nor stop killing civilians – they should be brought under the code of law that is applicable to the rest of Pakistan and be held accountable once and for all, for all that their accomplices, enablers and killers have done. Unless it is done (via army and political parties support) Pakistan will remain a lost cause.

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  • Asad
    Feb 9, 2013 - 10:17AM

    You do not negotiate with criminals .. you throw them in the prison ..

    or in countries like China, you just shoot them there and then, so that no one ever dares to behave in such a manner again

    the Americans and Europeans call for human rights again and again, but human rights is for human beings only .. not for beasts, frankensteins, vampires and werewolves

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  • Hasan Mehmood
    Feb 9, 2013 - 10:25AM

    By definition, a negotiation involves a certain amount of give and take.

    I have been crying myself hoarse regarding broad framework of agenda. I have begged, beseeched and desperately requested to be enlightened on this matter on various blogs and letters without a single response. The most recent instant is on http://tribune.com.pk/story/502059/peace-talks-ttp-wants-nawaz-to-act-as-guarantor
    {For Heavan’s sake can any one I repeat anyone spell out the broad framework of negotiations with these religiously motivated barbarians?}

    As I also said on the same blog lets give them the moon, stars and everything in between in return for disarming and letting us live our lives as we deem fit. If that’s not acceptable than what give and take is there to negotiate.

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  • Aarvey,india
    Feb 9, 2013 - 11:03AM

    @sami: Can you explain in your infinite wisdom, why the Taliban blowing up your own people, blowing up schools and resorting to beheading and killing your own soldiers?

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  • realist
    Feb 9, 2013 - 11:34AM

    Why Pakistan should not talk to the TTP

    Yes, pakistan should not talk to TTP. India should not talk to pakistan.

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  • Feb 9, 2013 - 11:45AM

    @Saeed:

    The Sri Lankan solution is not applicable to Pakistan.

    1) Sri Lanka is a secular country, which was fighting an ethnic battle. Pakistan is an Islamic country, fighting an Islamist battle.

    2) The Tamils even on the Sri Lankan side had accepted and were given equal rights. We are not even talking about rights here in Pakistan’s case.

    3) The prime driver of the insurgency was nationalism rooted in the Language – Tamil. The prime driver is the implementation of Sharia and Islam itself, no matter how much you try to deny it.

    4) Sri Lankan Govt and people never started this insurgency. They were sure of who was their enemy. Pakistan routinely blames RAW, CIA and Mossad(Poor Israel, sitting thousands of miles away but still gets blamed for everything). Who knows even you will believe India is supporting militants in Pakistan, either Baloch or TTP.

    The Sri Lankan and the Indian way(India crushed the insurgency successfully) are not possible in Islamic societies like Pakistan. If it was, it would have happened long ago..

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  • Abdul Jabbar Mohmand
    Feb 9, 2013 - 11:50AM

    @Raj – USA: Sheikh Rasheed request Mulla Omar to grant permission for IK to visit Waziristan.
    Where did u get that one from? Maybe its time to wake up and smell the coffee.

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  • Khanlala
    Feb 9, 2013 - 1:29PM

    One thing i would advice you all for this is just change your religion and then you might be able to say it more openly. Taliban might be problem but why to blame the sharia law as it is the ultimate solution for this country and one day Pakistan would become a real Islamic state. There were no Taliban is Pakistan before 2005 but when we tried to serve US more than anyone had in history and we started targeting our own people, they turned to taliban. And If US is not able to defeat them in 11 years even claiming to be the super power, and now turning to negotiations with them. Pakistan already having its economy with debts can’t afford this war anymore.Recommend

  • aj
    Feb 9, 2013 - 5:07PM

    @sami will you please explain how?

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  • freedom seeker
    Feb 9, 2013 - 5:39PM

    If we deeply look into Muslim world then we same people with same ideology destroying the societies in name of Islam and Sharia. Their only purpose of existence is to implement Saudi Sharia and rest is out of Islam for them. Recent example was of Mali where these terrorist came into power and started to destroy centuries old Shrines, mosques and libraries. If these people are set free in Pakistan then very soon there wouldn’t be any shrine, mosque, Imam barghas and religious institution except those who support TTP ideology.

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  • Chuna
    Feb 9, 2013 - 6:51PM

    People of Pakistan should thank MQM that it oppose that bill on Shariat in Parliment otherwise all clean shaved pml-n parliment members wore big beard and its infrastructure change to Taliban’s.

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  • Raj - USA
    Feb 9, 2013 - 9:03PM

    @Abdul Jabbar Mohmand:
    He said this in his August 2012 jalsa. IK was the chief guest.

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  • Usman Syed
    Feb 10, 2013 - 12:02AM

    There should be absolutely no negotiations with these murderers and traitors, working at the behest of their foregin masters to destabilise Pakistan.
    The entire nation must unite in unequivocal terms regardless of any political or ethinc differences to defeat and crush this biggest internal threat. These serpents know no mercy and do not deserve it either.
    Shame on our judicial and legal system as so many perpertators of heinous crimes and bloodshed have been repeatedly allowed to walk free. These murderes do not deserve open trial and must be hanged after behind-the-door speedy trials for their crimes against humanity and the country. Period!!

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  • Truth-seekerr
    Feb 10, 2013 - 2:55PM

    @sami: Correct, all three are enemies of Pakistan.

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  • Sanity
    Feb 10, 2013 - 8:23PM

    Well put across opinion but this remains one side of the picture as there is nothing wrong in dialogue or peace process. Military is not the final solution to terrorism, it establishes writ of the government and creates conditions favorable for setting in solution by the political process. While trying in vain to CRUSH terrorism with meager resources and lack of well thought out political strategy, this menace shall never get eliminated. Please don’t forget the sensitivity of timings due to US exit from the region, ongoing peace talks between stakeholders in Afghanistan and upcoming elections in Pakistan. However, before peace talks with Taliban, critical analysis of the failure of previous pacts may become handy in eyeing upon long term gains instead of short term objectives and political mileage.

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  • Enlightened
    Feb 10, 2013 - 8:27PM

    @Saeed:
    Agree with the editorial and your views as well. The SL army dealt with LTTE ruthlessly throwing the human rights regulations out of the window till the outfit was completely eliminated. Taliban record of killings is even worst than the Tamil tigers and they deserve to be treated harsher than the latter. However, it is essential that ruling and like minded opposition parties must close their ranks, be fearless and take the military on board to take punitive action against these barbarians. The military even though indicated its change of stand on internal threat declaring it graver than external is yet to translate into action which must be done sooner than later to save Pakistan.

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  • Naresh
    Feb 10, 2013 - 11:22PM

    @Usman Syed: Shame on our judicial and legal system as so many perpertators of heinous crimes and bloodshed have been repeatedly allowed to walk free. These murderes do not deserve open trial and must be hanged after behind-the-door speedy trials for their crimes against humanity and the country. Period!!
    .
    If wishes were Green Tamarind you would have the Mother of All Sore Throats
    .
    Cheers

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