Recalibrating with the TTP

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Ali Imran Atta

Pakistan’s most significant achievement in counterterrorism in the last two decades has been dismantling terrorist networks on its soil and cutting off their financial and logistical backbones

Even security institutions may only get a short-term reprieve if the government strikes a peace pact with the TTP. For it has been combating the terrorist group for such past one-and-a-half decades, crossing peace with the TTP may indeed be related to border security and quickening the mainstreaming of erstwhile Fata. Still, any settlement with the group will have ramifications for the nation.
One of the most unpopular ideas among analysts and those fighting the TTP is to engage in direct dialogue with the terrorist organisation. Authorities in the country’s security agencies feel the terrorists have already been defeated, so they argue that no deals should be made short of the terrorists’ surrender. Although reconciliation with the TTP may provide stability to Afghanistan’s borders, this notion is also questioned. Disgruntled members of the TTP could break away to form new groups or rejoin the Islamic State’s Khorasan chapter (IS-K), which has already increased its terrorist assaults in Pakistan.
Other geopolitical aims, such as limiting the TTP’s links to the intelligence services of unfriendly nations, have been discussed numerous times on these pages. Many commentators, however, feel that any arrangement with the TTP will eventually benefit the Haqqanis in the territorial struggle among Afghan Taliban ranks in the long run; if that was the truth, the Haqqanis’ ability to defend Pakistan’s interests is in doubt. Because of their close ties, the TTP and the Haqqanis will never go against each other. According to the Afghan interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani’s recent comments, the TTP sacrificed itself for the Afghan Taliban. He stressed that the TTP would not be pressured in discussions between the group and the Pakistani government, a statement that supports this viewpoint. He stated unequivocally that any settlement should be founded on shared understanding and the idea of giving and receiving.
The topic of negotiations with the TTP should be pushed to the forefront of the debate.
In this environment, the method of developing peace with the TTP appears to be a hopeless one. An essential factor in this dispute involves the revocation of the Fata merger, and TTP has made it clear that it would not consider any settlement on the pre-merger position of ex-Fata as an “independent” entity. The statement stated, “if the Pakistani government and its intelligence agencies want stability, they had to return to their previous status”.
However, Pakistan appears to have accepted the TTP’s other demands, notably the application of Sharia law in Malakand and its spread to the tribal districts. Negotiators’ apparent willingness to accept the demand demonstrates that the existence of alternative administrative systems doesn’t disturb them much, notwithstanding the Nizam-i-Adl Regulation, 2009. It appears that the official institutions involved in negotiations are likewise not bothered about the ramifications of agreeing to the TTP’s demands, which could lead to more complicated disputes. There was no need to bring this subject before parliament because even the authorities had no idea what was going on in the peace process with terrorists. Interestingly, the security institutions had requested parliament’s approval before beginning operations against terrorists in Swat, Khyber, and Waziristan, and parliament had given the country’s armed forces its complete support.
However, the security agencies have enlisted the help of tribal jirgas to give the peace talks with militants some validity. There were two tribal jirgas: one was made up of 32 Mehsud tribesmen, and the other comprised 16 tribal members from Malakand, as the TTP dubbed it in a media statement. In Afghanistan, both jirgas met with the TTP on May 13 and 14. An official delegation of 57 lawmakers and tribal elders from the former tribal territory had travelled to Kabul on June 1 to discuss with the TTP, which had been declared a terrorist organisation by the United Nations. Deputy Chief Minister for Information Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif represents the KP government in this jirga. However, negotiations have stalled because Pakistani soldiers must have to withdraw from tribal areas, and the Fata merger was reversed. The TTP must also be given a new name and renamed. The TTP has pledged to indefinitely extend the ceasefire and discussions, which is all Pakistan has achieved thus far.
There has been a decrease in terrorist assaults since the truce occurred. During the ceasefire, the Gul Bahadar terrorist group increased its attacks on security troops, although the TTP has not accepted responsibility for any of these. The Gul Bahadar gang has reportedly committed six terrorist assaults since the truce was announced, demonstrating their unhappiness with the peace process. Waziristan-based faction feels the state should negotiate with them since they have more ground presence and claim they can challenge the TTP if given a chance. The stakes are high with this one. As a result, the matter becomes more complicated and cannot be addressed just by jirgas, without any mandate, more considerable credibility, or security institutions in the tribal territories. This issue must be brought to the general public’s attention via the media, the legislature, and other decision-making bodies. It was estimated in a 1988 UN Security Council-led Taliban sanctioning committee monitoring team’s annual report that the proscribed TTP had up to 4,000 militants based in eastern and southeast districts along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, making up the most prominent foreign fighter organisation based there. If the TTP secures a deal with Pakistan, the number of its members will surge.Pakistan’s most significant achievement in counterterrorism in the last two decades has been dismantling terrorist networks on its soil and cutting off their financial and logistical backbones. The mainstream media, tens of thousands of madrassahs around the country, religious organisations, and decision-makers all lent their support. Peace with the TTP will undermine the accomplishments against a group that has been responsible for multiple fatalities, substantial financial losses, a terrible worldwide image, and diplomatic issues.