Initiating Dialogue with the TTP

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Malik Muhmmad Ashraf

As per the press release of ISPR, TTP terrorists targeted security forces in Spinwam, North Waziristan, on Saturday and martyred four Frontier Corps soldiers and one Levies sub-inspector. The attack occurred just one day after the prime minister, in an interview with Turkish TV, had said, “We are in talks with some of them on a reconciliation process. We might not reach some sort of conclusion or settlement in the end, but we are talking.”
Replying to a question about help by the Afghan Taliban in this regard, he confirmed that the talks were going on in Afghanistan so it could be said that they were helping. He reiterated, “I do not believe in military solutions as a politician, I see political dialogue as the way forward as I said about Afghanistan. We will forgive them once they surrender after which they will be able to live like ordinary citizens.”
A faction of TTP fighting the security forces in South Waziristan also announced a ceasefire on Friday, saying, “Our leaders have asked all fighters to observe ceasefire from today as they are engaged in some secret talks.”
The Saturday attack on security forces might have been carried out by a group of TTP, which is probably not yet in the loop regarding reconciliation talks. The incident, however, does underline the imperative of reaching out to all the fighting factions of TTP.
The fact that the Afghan Taliban are supporting this effort is indeed an encouraging development, especially considering that the spokesman of the Taliban Zabihullah Mujahid had said in August, “It is not Afghanistan but Pakistan that has to deal with the issue of TTP.” However, he had remarked that the TTP considered the Afghan Taliban as their leaders and would, therefore, have to listen to the new Kabul rulers—whether the TTP liked it or not. The bonds between TTP and Afghan Taliban are confirmed by the fact that the former along with the Afghan Taliban have been fighting against the occupying forces.
With the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and their commitment of not allowing anyone to use its soil for attacks against any other country, the TTP and other proscribed organisations, including Baloch groups operating from Afghanistan, have been barred from targeting Pakistan.
Nobody in his right mind can take an issue with Prime Minister’s insistence on resolving issues through political dialogue. The members of TTP factions are citizens of Pakistan and if they can be persuaded through dialogue to lay their arms and live like peaceful citizens, it is worth trying. Successive governments in Pakistan have been trying their best to bring Baloch insurgents into the national mainstream through dialogue though the efforts did not succeed due to a host of external factors. The prime minister has also urged dialogue with Baloch insurgents. World history testifies to the fact that wars and insurgencies are mostly resolved through dialogue, which is even more important while dealing with internal upheavals.
While there is no doubt that our valiant forces—with the unflinching support of the nation—have subdued the phenomenon of terrorism to a great extent, there is no harm in giving peace a chance. Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban are very cordial. They have publicly acknowledged our efforts for peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan is trying its best to convince the world of the necessity to remain engaged with the Taliban and extend all possible help to them in fulfilling their promises. Under such circumstances, the help by the Afghan Taliban concerning reconciliation with TTP is of great value. Hopefully, the TTP factions based on Afghan soil will not find it easy to spurn the efforts of the Afghan Taliban for reconciliation with Pakistan under the changed ground realities.
However, the opposition parties in Pakistan do not see the process of talks with TTP in the same context as the government. They believe that since the issue is sensitive and of national importance, the parliament should have been taken into confidence. Some believe that the statement of Prime Minister Imran Khan is akin to rubbing salt in the wounds of the relatives of martyrs. This contention is an emotional ploy that belies logic and suggests finding a solution to the problem with the barrel of the gun. The nation is greatly indebted to the martyrs, who sacrificed their lives for the national cause. It has full sympathy for their relatives who had to endure the loss of their near and dears in the fight against terrorists. Now that an opportunity has emerged to deal with the problem through negotiations, why not grab it?
There might be some logic in the demand of opposition parties for taking the parliament and the political parties in confidence about the parleys in progress. The issue does demand national consensus and ownership. If an open debate cannot be held in the parliament for some sensitive considerations, at least the parliamentary leaders could have been taken into confidence and briefed about the effort to win their support. Maybe then, the opposition parties would also positively contribute to firming up the government’s strategy.