The new government is reported to have come up with a scheme under which a “working group” would be formed to talk to the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. The composition of this working group, and its mandate, is likely to be announced after the scheduled All Parties Conference on devising a national security policy. We have, of course, known for quite some time that the PML-N government had always favoured negotiations with the Taliban and believes this is the best way to end the militant scourge.
But, when we speak of talks, there is a need to exercise caution. There have been far too many incidents in the past where talks have failed miserably and, in fact, have given the Taliban time to regroup and reorganise rather than defeating them in any manner or weakening the positions from which they operate. Doing so again would be an enormous folly. Talks with groups who openly violate law and question the writ of state should only be carried out from a position of strength and at a time when the militants have been weakened. We need to examine if this is indeed the situation today.
We are also told that the military has stated it is not entirely opposed to talks, but warned the groups to be spoken to need to be carefully identified and then approached. There is also a degree of confusion over how to reach them, with army officials opposing the idea of using captured militants for this purpose on the grounds that such tactics have failed in the past. The ISI has already given the prime minister a detailed briefing on security and has said the government will need to think out its policies carefully. This is certainly true. There should be no hasty decisions taken on the matter. Right now, the militants have been beaten back in many places as a result of the operation carried out against them since 2009. It would be most unfortunate to give them ground to make a comeback, or to otherwise adopt strategies which allow the militant hold over us to grow.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2013.
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