Dialogue with the Taliban Needs Caution

By Sajjad ShaukatPakistan Taliban Asmatullah Muawiya

 The government of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) led by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is determined to have peace dialogue with the Taliban, especially Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which has continued its subversive acts before, during and after the general elections 2013. On the other hand, while accepting the offer, the TTP spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid has recommended that the Chief of Jamaat-e-Islami, Munawar Hasan (JI) and Head of Jamiat-e-Ulema-Islami (JUI-F), Maulana Fazlur Rehman should act as intermediaries in their talks with the government.

Both the leaders of JI and JUI-F have agreed to perform the role as intermediates for reconciliation with the Taliban. In this regard, Fazlur Rehman met the P M Nawaz Sharif on August 29, this year and said that he wanted to assist the government, but no substantial developments were made on the matter since the TTP’s offer.

It is notable that Maulana Samiul Haq, a respectable and renowned religious scholar who has played a significant role in grooming, upbringing, educating and guiding many Madrissa students (Taliban) including Mullah Omer and other top ranking Taliban, has offered to facilitate negotiations between Taliban and the Government of Pakistan. Hence, he has created a sense of hope to break the deadlock. So, the ruling party could also utilise his services and expertise for talks with the Taliban.

Although all the mainstream political and religious parties have favoured the dialogue with the Taliban, yet status quo remains in this matter. In fact, before talking to the TTP and its related-factions, the government seeks to conduct All Parties Conference (APP) to develop a consensus. In this regard, recently Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali also clarified that we had no pre-condition for talks like surrender of arms by the Taliban militants, and APP meeting would be held very soon.

Besides, ruling party is considering two options. Either it will continue with the present policy of dialogue with the Taliban insurgents or all out-war with the militants. In this respect, government is focus on the National Security Policy (NSP), where the activation of the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), the formation of joint intelligence secretariat to augment the capacity and capability of paramilitary forces are the foremost priorities.

It seems that in the last two months, the political and military establishment have developed consensus about anti-terrorism strategy which also includes dialogue with the Taliban. So, the military is ready for the political solution as long as it justifies the ends of war. Now, government and Pak Army are on the same page for holding meaningful talks with the Taliban and Army follows instructions given by the former.

However, ruling party is giving top priority to peace talks with the militancy. In this context, in his first speech to the nation, the PM Nawaz Sharif, and in his interview with a private TV channel, Chaudhry Nisar Ali emphasised on the dialogue after arriving at consensus course of action in the recently re-designated Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCNS). Chaudhry Nisar clarified, “He does not want to talk of any other option in case the dialogue option does not work…our priority is dialogue, and we do not want to talk of anything else right now.”

In fact, the government wants to end the menace of terrorism through quickest means in order to focus on economic development, power crises, good governance and so on. But, its needs caution, while having dialogue with the Taliban, especially those of the TTP.

It is mentionable that when in the past, the former government of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had signed the peace agreement with the TTP; US had accelerated attacks on the tribal regions by the drone attack so as to castigate it. Under the pretension, the TTP suspended peace agreement, and also occupied Swat, Dir, Buner and other adjoining areas. When Pakistan’s armed forces successfully ejected the TTP militants out of these areas, the leader of the TTP Maulvi Fazlullah who has close connections with Pakistan-based TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud, had run to Afghanistan. Based in the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, his insurgents intensified subversive activities in Pakistan by sending suicide bombers and heavily-equipped militants in the country.

As a matter of fact, in order to fulfill collective covert designs of India, Israel and US, TTP has been given a free hand by these countries to continue acts of sabotage in Pakistan to destabilise it, because it is the only nuclear country in the Islamic world.

Notably, as results of elections 2013, PML-N and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) which have formulated their governments had repeatedly favoured peace dialogue with the TTP and to make efforts to stop drone attacks. While during election campaign, TTP which conducted terror-assaults on the leaders and election-sites of other political parties such as ANP, MQM and PPP had said that it will not target PML-N and PTI as these are liberal parties. But this militant group killed two PTI members of the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa assembly. And ambitions of the new government received a greater blow when on May 29, 2013; a US pilotless aircraft killed four men in North Waziristan. Under the pretext of predator strikes, Hakimullah Mehsud who has clandestine connections with CIA withdrew its offer of peace talks with the government. While, again on July 2, a US unmanned aircraft killed 17 people in North Waziristan. So, there is a collaboration of these strikes with the subversive activities of the TTP, which have especially been taking place in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, Balochistan and Karachi as part of the US secret strategy.

Particularly about a latest predator attack, US State Department said that Wali-ur-Rehman, the TTP second-in-command was killed on a tip off provided by an informer from Hakimullah Mehsud group. This has been a grave blow to Wali-ur-Rehman’s faction of TTP, as Hakimullah Mehsud succeeded in eliminating his major opponent in TTP.

The new leader Khan Saeed alias Sajna hailing from Mehsud tribe must realise that their leader has been eliminated by Hakimullah Mehsud group to get the award of $5million from US. The US State Department refused to disclose the real name of informer belonging to Hakimullah group. In the past, Hakimullah Mehsud made numerous attempts to kill Wali-ur-Rehman and this time his plot succeeded by providing information to CIA about his location. However, TTP has lost the visionary leader who had supported negotiations with the elected government of Pakistan to reach a peace accord and bring peace in the country.

It is worth-mentioning that on August 10, 2013, even JI Chief Munawar Hasan stated that he was willing to act as a mediator between the government and the TTP, but both sides should first define their agenda and priorities.

During the election campaign, tough terms of the TTP for reconciliation indicated double game. While rejecting the elections, TTP spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan said that democracy was un-Islamic and western system of government by asking the government to change its constitution and foreign policy in conformity with Islamic Shariah (Islamic Jurisprudence).

Nevertheless, Islamic laws can be implemented through a representative system of governance, hence, elections are essential for placing the elected persons to make rules and govern in any part of the country. Laws of Sharia can best be put to practice through democratic system which does not make us un-Islamic or anti-Sharia. In fact, it is a representative system which is based upon equality of all the people, ensuring enforcement of rule of law through an independent justice. Nothing is forcibly imposed on the political will of the people who fully enjoy the freedom of thought and action.

Recently, more than 50 Islamic scholars (Ulemas) declared “killing of innocent people, target killings and suicide bombings in Karachi, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa including sectarianism as against the spirit of Islam.” They explained, “The suicide attacks and related violence smeared the name of Islam and weakened Pakistan.

Now, people from all segment of life and majority of politicians including general masses want that a handful of terrorist elements must not be allowed to dictate their agenda and to impose their self-created ideology in the country.

Nonetheless, while having dialogue with the TTP and its affiliated groups, government needs caution, keeping in mind that the militants’ offer may be part of their dual policy by which they seek to fulfil secret designs of the anti-Pakistan entities.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations.
Email: sajjad_logic@yahoo.com

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