For the first time since its formation in December 2007, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has made an open offer of dialogue through the media. Negotiations have been held with it in the past and a number of peace treaties were inked. However, people — whose identities were not disclosed — held these negotiations in secrecy and the details were not officially released to the media. Peace deals were negotiated by the political administration, assisted in some cases by parliamentarians elected from the area and agreements were approved by serving or retired senior army officers. Now, the TTP has demanded national level political leaders as guarantors to ensure that the government honours any ceasefire deal that is inked.
Foreign militants entered Waziristan after Nato operations in Afghanistan started following the 9/11 attacks. In South Waziristan, they took refuge in the land of Ahmedzai Wazir, in the spring of 2002. Negotiations were held with nine sub-tribes of Wazirs by the political administration for expulsion of these militants. The tribes were not comfortable with the presence of strangers and made a commitment that they would not allow them to operate in their areas. However, foreign terrorists, guided by a few local facilitators, initiated the killing of prominent Maliks who could have led the tribals against them. Subsequently, the Ahmedzai tribe showed its inability to evict the foreigners but assured support to the security forces in case they initiated an operation. A number of targeted operations were conducted in 2002. However, the strength of the militants continued to increase and by mid-2002, Waziristan had become the headquarters of al Qaeda.
Operations against tribal criminals, launched by the Frontier Corps and the political administration, had been a normal practice in Fata for a long time. However, dealing with hardcore terrorists was a new phenomenon. Induction of the army in Fata led to civil-military friction and the authority of the political agents was diluted. Since the leadership in Islamabad had little idea about Fata, it relied heavily on the opinion of senior Pashtun military officers dealing with the area. Focused operations in Waziristan in 2002-03 could have eliminated the menace of terrorism but instead, the course of negotiations was preferred. The terrorists took full advantage of these peace agreements, increased their strength and spread their organisation to other parts of Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). By 2007, they were completely or partially ruling about 17 administrative units of Fata and K-P. The Pakistan Army has now managed to evict them from about 15 administrative units but North Waziristan is still under their control.
The government should consider the TTP dialogue offer, not because it is likely to resolve the issue of terrorism but because a majority of the population prefer this option over the use of force. Nawaz Sharif wants the government to initiate dialogue and Imran Khan, for many years, has been opposed to military operations and is convinced that engaging the TTP in dialogue is the best option. The TTP has never hidden its agenda. It believes that the present governance system is unIslamic and wants to change it through jihad. The initial ceasefire offer made by Asmatullah Muawiya was conditionally linked to amendments in the Constitution to make it Sharia-based.
During negotiations, the TTP’s official viewpoint will become clear to those who still have doubts about it. The point that they will take advantage of these talks to gain time is not valid as, except for drone strikes, no operation is in progress in North Waziristan. They are virtually ruling that area and are under no pressure. In all probability, they will present unreasonable and unconstitutional demands for renouncing violence. If they are reasonable and sincere, it would be best for Pakistan. If they are not, at least the people will finally know their real intentions and this may lead to the development of a national consensus on a few points — the TTP are a threat to internal security, they are not waging jihad against the US, they will not lay down arms once the US exits the region, they want power and negotiations are not the only solution to eliminate terrorism from Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2013.
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@Abbas Mehdi: I grant you that the term national interest has been abused in Pakistan (and not just PAkistan but many countries throughout the world throughout history). But that does not mean there is inherently something wrong with using national interest as criteria for taking decisions. If not national interest, what should the criteria be? Of course the people need to use their own judgment and decide whether what is being sold to them as national interest is truly in national interest.
So the debate can and should be about what IS the national interest rather than simply banning one word which has been abused in the past. If this term is not used, the elites will come up with different term that will serve them just as well.
I agree with the rest of your opinion i.e. religious extremism needs to be tackled and tackled NOW in Pakistan.
Yes, I do agree with the idea of negotiations with TTP. In this way at least people will know the real face of those who are sabotaging the constitution of Pakistan. TTP is raiding on our military installations. They are killing innocent citizens of Pakistan. This is universal truth that all wars end with negotiations. I fully support the stance of PTI on this issue. These negotiations should be fair and their result must be fruitful. Previously, wars were used to be fought between the states, but now the whole situation has changed. Today intrastate actors are more dangerous, than external enemies. So we should first eliminate our internal enemies.
A. the people will finally know their real intentions and this may lead to the development of a national consensus on a few points
After having seen the Taliban in action in Afghanistan and the TNSM in Swat, there should not be any doubt about the 'real intentions' of TTP. However, let it be clarified that the TTP wants a Shara'ee Caliphate under Mullah Omar.Nothing less.
B — the TTP are a threat to internal security, they are not waging jihad against the US, they will not lay down arms once the US exits the region, they want power
It seems you already know the 'real intentions' of the TTP. So what possibly can be revealed by the negotiations? By the way, what happens to the 'Strategic Depth' doctrine and TTP are a reaction to US occupation thesis? Are these finally being abandoned?
C.and negotiations are not the only solution to eliminate terrorism from Pakistan.
In view of A and B above and past experience too, the 'only solution' has been staring Pakistan in the eye for some time. Is Pakistani Army ready to bite the bullet?
@gp65: Both your comments were pretty clear except the coined term 'national interest'. If you are an Indian as you've confessed then I'm pretty sure you won't be getting confused as much as we do when it comes to a matter of national interest.
@MSS: That's what I meant to say. If you want to focus Taliban then it's inevitable to corner our state policies along with the role of military establishment which has always haunted us since 1947 (leave aside East Pakistan & the current turmoil in Balochistan). I'd like to refer to one of your quotes, "They exploited the volunteers and paid them and supplied them with weapons." What if I rephrase your sentence that the volunteers were manipulated in the name of religion & God. It's also history that Saudi Arabia was financing the plans of CIA with the support of our Army. Taliban is a mindset which is the outcome of our adventurism. We've already plunged ourselves into a chasm of grave concerns with prevailing religious bigotry which I'm afraid will rupture us apart if we put ourselves into a state of denial.
@Abbas Mehdi, A little correction here is called for. The US exploited the Soviet weakness and decided to meet and defeat them far away from their own home land. They exploited the volunteers and paid them and supplied them with weapons. But those were not Taliban. The Taliban are the creation of Pakistan who were recruited from the madrasa going class in order to capture Afghanistan through proxies. Others joined after. The Taliban captured Afghanistan in the mid 1990s. The rest is history.
Taliban is a spoiled child of establishment and it needs to be handle with care.Those performing their duties in FATA in khakis know it very well and hate the parents for such discrimination with other children.
@Abbas Mehdi: I am an Indian and by no means do I support dictatorship or military rule in your country since every dictator that you have had has hurt my country. You must have misunderstood what I said. I was saying that is disingenuous to compare TTP to Afghan mujahidin of the 70s and any support that REagan may have shown for them cannot and should not be blindly transferred to TTP who is killing thousands of innocent Pakistani civilians.
Those who are supporting talks with TTP must realise that the ultimate aim of TTP is the control of the state directly or through proxies. Once they succeed, there will be no opinions published in newspapers and the very people advocating reconcilliation will be the targets of TTP' ire along with most others who have liberal credentials. There is only one way to deal with them, that is, total anhilation of this destructive, criminal and illegal organisation. These views also make me an extremist in a different sense but dire situations demand extreme measures.
"However, foreign terrorists, guided by a few local facilitators," Why is the Pakistani nation being kept bereft of the truth? Have we not suffered enough to know the truth and 'be prepared for the worst and hope for the best?"
If Al Qaeda and sympathizers are backing the TTP in North Waziristan then why should we accept negotiations with them when we already know what their intentions are? With the Afghan scenario changing, are they trying to establish themselves as a 'permanent force of opinion?'
The archaic and rustic politicians will continue to heartily embrace the beliefs and ethos of yesteryears and today. This will take a nation of 180 million back into the fold of economic exploitation.
The idea here is to get a grasp on the internal administration of the country that will determine what our national policies are. The sooner the better. Salams 2013
Brig sahib has rightly identified that TTP is not for Jihad but a threat to the Internal Security. TTP had controle of 17 administrative units of FATA/KP in 2007. Today 15 of them have been retaken by the Army and Taliban are only reduced to North Waziristan.Now when major area has been retaken by the Army, why suddenly Taliban want guarrantors from Political leadership.In addition whether it is Nawaz Sharif or other political forces why were they asleep for last five years....or what action did they take on recommendations of Raza Rabani's Parliament Commmittee on National Security?. Brig Sahib after having dealt/negotiated with them wants to reinitiate the negotiatons process to find out the sincerity of Taliban and in the process give them time to regroup and penetrate more into heart of Pakistani cities to plant bombs in the busy shoping centres. I suggest Brig sahib has played his inning during Mush time while dealing with Taliban and now let the present leadershipdeal with it as only one administrative unit is to be taken care off. Present political leadership of ANP having sacrificed their leadership is fully supporting the ongoing operations and people of KPK exoect the same from them.... Brig sahib is detached from reality as he is enjoying fine weather of Islamabad rather then being at Lakki Marwat or Miran Shah.
@gp65 Perhaps we should avoid the vague term like 'national interest' because where we (Pakistan) are standing today-- at the brink of collapsing as nation--is the result of the false interpretation; meant to appease the ruling class of our country. Annoying to say, the state, the army & the agencies never acknowledged their follies of the past despite administrating the foreign policy. They've always spun a deliberate attempt to paint TTP serving foreign elements. Why our state is insincere to admit that they've contributed to this menace and has brought our nation to an irreversible reaction from these so-called (once foreign funded) Mujahideen. Let's remember here, the formers US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already admitted that the US too had a share in creating the problem that plagues Pakistan today. US created Taliban and abandoned Pakistan. Were our generals playing golf or riding their horses in polo ground when this plot was hatched? Absolutely not! We've acknowledged TTP and their sister organizations (LeT, LeJ, Haqqani network etc) as the assets of strategic depth. Abandon this rhetoric and the bereaved people of Pakistan will be able to savor peace & progress. Please show a little mercy to our battered people who consider you their ultimate savior.
@shahid: Some observations:
Reagan praised mujaids who were fighting foreign occupation. Are you saying that TTP is fighting foreign occupation?
Contrary to the lies being spread by some vested interests, US never supported Afghan Taliban. Only 3 countries recognized the Taliban government in Afghanistan during 1996-2001 (PAkistan, KSA, UAE) - USA was not amongst those who supported Afghan Taliban.
The mujahids that Regan supported were not killing Russian civilians - unlike TTP who ARE killing Pakistani civilians.
Since when have Pakistanis become such chelas of US PResidents? DO you also support Obama's drone policy? Pakistan needs to decide what is in the interest of its own citizens regardless of what someone else may have determined is in the national interest of their country 30 years back.
@Shahid: Get over what Ronald Reagan said 28 years ago. That was relevant to US Foreign policy then and thats that. Allies and enemies change. Who cares, we have to deal with whats going on right now in Pakistan! Second, the TTP and the people Reagan was referring to are not necessarily the same.
I am afraid the TTP are the future of Pakistan simply because Pakistanis cannot understand why these Muslims behave so bad!
With due respect sir ( asad munir) with the carnage the Taliban have created and the mass murdering of innocent civilians on both side of the border, Taliban have prove their real intention and ideology. You want to give them a chance BUT I won't. They should be crushed with sincerity from both side of the border, so that the people of the region and Islam is saved from these illiterate, warmonger, uncivilised idiots.
Not convincing. Asad Munir sahib expects reasons and sincerity from Taliban. Now i have heard it all.
Sometimes we are told that the TTP are CIA-RAW-Mossad agents jo "Musalmaan nahi ho saktai". Now those same people want us to negotiate with the same CIA-RAW-Mossad agents. Totally wrapped ourselves in our own web of conspiracy theories.
And Ronald Regan said: “These gentlemen are the moral equivalents of America’s founding fathers.”.while introducing the Mujahideen leaders to media on the White house lawns (1985).
So whom should one believe: the former president of the USA or Brig: Sahib. May be none of them.
May be they should have asked for Dalai Lama's expert military advice on how to deal with the situation. After all what do the local Pushtun military officers know about their own area and people.
Brig (r) Asad Munir recently said in his tweet that the Pashtun tribal leaders quit fighting the Taliban after they discovered the army was not serious in fighting them. In his article, however, he has been too diplomatic, citing strength of the Arab Jihadis as the reason why they couldn't be fought. Is that fair?