Negotiations with the Taliban

During negotiations, the TTP’s official viewpoint will become clear to those who still have doubts about it.

Asad Munir February 10, 2013
The writer is a retired brigadier who has served in senior intelligence postings in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata

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.


gp65 | 10 years ago | Reply

@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.

Zobia | 10 years ago | Reply

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.

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