Dual Policy of the Pakistani Taliban
Since the Pakistani Taliban led by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) offered peace talks with the government, a debate has continued in our country among the political leaders and analysts, showing divergent views. But they have ignored the fact that the militants’ offer is part of their dual policy by which they seek to fulfil a number of secret designs.
By following tricks, TTP wants to create a rift between the ruling alliance on the one side and between the ruling parties and their sympathisers—religious and political leaders on the other. In this regard, differences between these parties were most apparent in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly on January 4, this year when lawmaker of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) Mufti Kifyatullah said that the government should engage in talks with militants. But Information Minister of Awami National Party (ANP) Mian Iftikhar Hussain stated, “The ANP is trying to get all political parties on board to develop a single agenda over terrorism”, and “should settle with whom they should talk and on what grounds.” He added, “If the problem is not resolved by talks, then strict action should be taken.” Earlier, chief of the ANP, Asfanyar Wali Khan remarked that talks with the TTP were possible if they renounced violence”, and withdraw their unacceptable conditions.
In this regard, Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik also pointed out on December 27, 2012 that the Taliban’s offer of conditional truce is unacceptable, saying, “Taliban groups cannot dictate the state.”
In fact, tough terms of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan for reconciliation indicate double game. In this context, in a letter, Pakistani Taliban demanded that Pakistan should pull out of the Afghan war, abandon its pro-American and pro-western policies and change its constitution and foreign policy in conformity with Islamic Shariah. The militants also demanded from Pakistan to refocus on a war of “revenge” against India. The TTP dubbed the ANP and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) as agents of the US and warned that Taliban would target both the parties. The militants said they would not target the JUI-F, Jamaat-i-Islami, the PML-N and Imran Khan’s Tehrik-i-Insaaf because they had no problem with them.
Indeed, these certain conditions which are full of contradictions clearly show that the Taliban insurgents are not interested in peace dialogue nor are they serious about reconciliation. They want to create division among the political and religious parties through their duplicity.
It is tact of the Pakistani Taliban leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, as he did not send any statement for peace deal with the government. The said letter was written by a Punjabi Taliban leader Asmatullah Muawiya outlining his leader’s conditions for talks, though TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ahsan endorsed the offer. Through his dual policy, Hakimullah also seeks to check that after the recent suicide attacks, bombasts and target killings, especially in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, assaults on the Peshawar and Kamra Air Force bases including assassination of the ANP leader Bashir Ahmad Bilour and killing of 24 Levies personnel by the TTP militants have made the state to retreat and to accept their demands. In this context, while rejecting the ceasefire offer by the Taliban, Interior Minister Rehman Malik remarked, “I dismiss every claim of Ehsanullah Ehsan unless Hakimullah Mehsud authenticates his claim of being his representative… then as to why he himself does not come to open.”
It is notable that TTP insurgents have even lost the sympathy of majority of people due to their subversive acts. Recently, President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, leaders of the PML-N, ANP, Jamaat-e-Islami, JUI-F, PTI and MQM had denounced the shocking assault on Malala Yousafzai including the killing of Bilour. Besides, the Sunni Ittehad Council, Islamic scholars of various sects termed these terror-attacks as un-Islamic; pointing out that the assailants’ self-adopted interpretation of Islam was nothing, but ignorance and digression from the actual teachings of the religion. They clarified that Islam not only made it obligatory on every man and woman to seek education, but also strictly forbade taking life of any innocent person.
Pakistan’s members of civil societies, human rights groups, students of universities etc. have protested against the inhuman activities of the Taliban.
However, Islam considers killing one innocent person equal to murdering the entire humanity, while jihad is a sacred obligation, as targeting innocent women and children is not jihad. These Taliban and their banned affiliated groups are defaming Islam which is the religion of peace, democracy, moderation and human rights.
In the past few years, the Taliban killed thousands of people across Pakistan through suicide attacks, bomb blasts, targeted killings, beheadings, assaults on military troops, police stations, sectarian violence etc., and destroyed hundreds of girls’ schools including those of boys. In the Khyber agency, they are also indulged in murdering and torturing Shias in their majority areas, forcing them to flee.
Taking cognisance of their strong opposition by all the segments of society, the TTP-led Taliban might have felt that they could again get the favour of some people by offering meaningful dialogue to the government.
As part of their bluff, TTP leadership claims that the outfit is part of other Taliban who have been fighting against the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. On the other side, on September 17, 2012, in a rare interview by telephone from an undisclosed location, leader of the Haqqani militant network, Sirajuddin Haqqani had revealed that the group has become so confident after battlefield gains in Afghanistan that “it no longer has sanctuaries in Pakistan, and instead, felt secure inside Afghanistan.” Earlier a Haqqani leader also stated that Taliban chief Mullah Umer had instructed the militants to stop subversive acts inside Pakistan, and to continue their war of liberation in Afghanistan.
Notably, in their conditions for dialogue, like the blame game of foreign elements, the Taliban also demanded that Pakistan should stop pitting Afghan insurgents against the Kabul government. In fact, based in Afghanistan, US-led India and Israel are covertly assisting the TTP insurgents with arms and ammunition to destabilse Pakistan in order to obtain their collective secret designs. For the last two years, heavily-armed Taliban entered Pakistan from Afghanistan’s side and attacked security forces’ check posts, killing several soldiers of the Pak Army besides destroying infrastructure of various towns. Pakistan’s civil and military leadership has repeatedly protested against cross-border terrorism including TTP location in Afghan provinces of Nooristan and Kunar, but US-led NATO and Afghan top officials did not take any action.
Besides, the TTP’s offer of peace talks with the present regime has coincided with the acceleration of drone attacks on North and South Waziristan. In the recent ten days, these CIA-operated unmanned planes have killed more than 60 people in these tribal areas. The main purpose behind is not only to provoke the tribesmen against the Pak Army, but also to cause more recruitment for TTP, and to provide it with justification of more terror-attacks inside Pakistan. The aim is also to regain the favour of PTI and other religious entities for Pakistani Taliban.
Another diplomatic tact of the TTP and drone attacks is to create a rift between Pakistan’s security agencies on the one side and the general masses led by political and religious parties on the other.
It is of particular attention that in 2007, military operations were stopped when an agreement was signed between Taliban leader Fazlullah and the government, but it failed as these militants violated the accord through their inhuman activates like hostage-takings, attack on the Shias etc. In 2008, setting aside American concerns, the government asked the Swat Taliban to lay down arms in accordance with the peace deal as their promise for enforcement of the Islamic law was fulfilled. But various transgressions by the Swat Taliban like refusal to disarm, murder of innocent people, beheadings, destruction of schools etc. clearly violated the peace agreement. They also occupied Dir, Buner and other adjoining areas. When the government writ was challenged, the civil government called army to re-launch military operations which ejected TTP militants out of these regions.
No doubt, latest offer by the Pakistani Taliban is part of their dual policy. Nonetheless, by uniting all the political and religious parties, the government must get a decisive upper-hand over them, developed through consensus. And the matter should not be left to military alone to cope with these foreign-backed militants.
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