Ending militant violence: Govt ponders working group for Taliban talks

The proposed working group will comprise politicians and other figures who can help broker peace.

Kamran Yousaf July 14, 2013
Analysts suggest a multi-pronged approach to deal with the threat of militancy and extremism. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The government is likely to form a working group to hold talks with the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militant groups as part of its efforts to put an end to the vicious cycle of violence in the country.

The working group is expected to be announced after an all-party conference (APC), which is scheduled for later this month, to evolve consensus on a new proposed national security policy.

The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has already announced that it is willing to negotiate with
the TTP and other ‘reconcilable groups’ for the sake of peace.

Although, the security establishment in a recent briefing to the government suggested a cautious approach on peace talks, the government is willing to give peace a chance.

“We will do whatever we can to restore peace [in the country],” a senior government official told The Express Tribune.

“Different proposals are under consideration and one of them is to form a working group for talks with the TTP,” added the official, who asked not to be named in the report because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The proposed working group, he said, would comprise politicians and other figures who could use ‘their influence and good offices’ to make peace talks successful.

According to the draft security policy, the government would devise a mechanism to reintegrate those who either shun some ‘so-called jihadi organisations’ or who got disengaged from such acts on any account.

Under the plan, the government is considering utilising former militants and those militants who are in custody for reaching out to the TTP. However, the security establishment is wary of this approach as it believes such tactics failed to yield positive result in the past.

During his recent visit to the headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Premier Nawaz was briefed on the ground situation and the ‘hard choices’ his government have to make for peace talks.

A military official said the security establishment was not opposed to talks with the militants. “But for such an approach you need a careful analysis of the situation,” the official told The Express Tribune requesting anonymity.

“First of all we need to identify the militant groups who we can talk to,” he said. “There are groups who are willing to negotiate but there are others who may never talk,” he added.

The TTP is an umbrella group of a medley of militant outfits but there is no guarantee that its component groups would honour any peace deal the government might cut with its leadership.

Analysts suggest a multi-pronged approach to deal with the threat of militancy and extremism.

“The strategy must focus on isolating the hardcore militants who may never enter into negotiations,” said security analyst Brig (retd) Mehmood Shah. He believes that despite its peace efforts, the government will eventually have to take some decisive action against the hardened militants.

Shah believes that before the troops’ drawdown from Afghanistan, Pakistan will have to carry out a targeted operation in the tribal belt to eliminate ‘irreconcilable militants.’

Another official said the government would consider all options if efforts to bring the militants to the negotiating table failed.

When contacted, Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz refused to comment on the proposed working group, saying the government would announce the new policy after the completion of the consultation process.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2013.