Whether the government is actually holding peace talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or not — the TTP’s deputy chief says it is, while the group’s spokesman and Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik say they aren’t — the fact remains that negotiating with the militant outfit is a profoundly unwise idea. If there is one thing previous peace agreements have taught us, it is that the Taliban use them as a ruse to regroup and then return to action as soon as they have regained a position of strength. To allow them to do so, once again, would show that we are unable to learn from previous mistakes. What makes speculation of peace talks even more disturbing is that they are accompanied by Taliban claims that the government has released 145 militants as a goodwill gesture. If true, this is indeed very worrying. Goodwill gestures need to come from the TTP, in the form of a complete halt to violence, not the government.
It is true that there has been a reduction in the number of terrorist attacks in Pakistan this year but that is no reason for us to be lulled into a false sense of security. We should be especially wary of any Taliban peace overtures at this time of the month. There is no way of knowing if the sudden desire for negotiation stems from a genuine desire to compromise or a need to survive the harsh winters of the tribal areas.
It is also very counterproductive that we would be so conciliatory towards the TTP at the same time that we are taking an increasingly hard line against the US. Not only have the Americans been forced to vacate Shamsi Airbase, the military leadership has now given orders that any drones flying in Pakistani airspace should be shot down. If talks indeed are taking place, it would clearly imply that we now consider the US to be a far greater threat than the Taliban. Equally clearly, that is a mistaken impression that we need to rectify before it’s too late.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ