Waiting Game


While government negotiators distance themselves from talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a high-level meeting on Monday morning, chaired by Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif, agreed to formalise an agenda for a final push in talks with the terrorists, even as a series of attacks in Karachi and other parts of the country over the last two days left several people dead. An explosion killed three peace committee members in Landikotal on Sunday, while a small bomb exploded inside a Karachi seminary on Monday, killing three children. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar reportedly told the meeting that either the talks needed to end successfully or then be taken to their logical conclusion, a statement that appears to highlight the government’s dwindling patience with the terrorists. Formalising an agenda shows the government is hardening its stance and that the faux-negotiations may soon end. That the government showed any patience at all is remarkable. While it began the process by trying to explore what grounds could be used as a basis for talks, the terrorists began by executing 23 kidnapped Frontier Constabulary personnel and bombing a police bus in Karachi. This confirmed the analysis of many commentators who said that the militant organisation is too committed to violence and its members too brainwashed by their brutal ideology to negotiate with a state they want to destroy and with people they want to kill. The military also believe the terrorists cannot be negotiated with, though they have patiently waited for the government to learn this for itself. After decades spent creating these groups, the military should know. 

Further confirmation of the terrorists’ commitment to mass murder as a political tool is found in a letter sent by TTP Mohmand commander Omar Khaled Khorasani to the chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Sirajul Haq. The terrorist reportedly congratulated Mr Haq on his election to the party leadership and said that while the two organisations share a common ideology and goal, his organisation is committed to armed struggle and believes said ideology can only be imposed by force. It should be noted that Khorasani’s chapter of the terrorist organisation claimed responsibility for assassinating police counter-terrorism expert SHO Rafiq Tanoli in Karachi four days ago. Certainly, the JI and other religious parties share beliefs with the terrorists. Some commentators call them the ‘soft face’ of terrorists in the political mainstream. As a political party acceptable to the terrorists — and given their consistent failure at the polls — the JI has a vested interest in negotiations continuing. The terrorist ideological agenda is similar to their own hence they may try to create a political furore around military action. Both the JI and the terrorists say the government needs to be sincere since negotiations have reached an impasse, with terrorists demanding the military withdraw from South Waziristan and the release of almost 1,000 prisoners they claim are non-combatants. The government has released more than 30 people with no reciprocation in the release of terrorist-held hostages such as the sons of the former PM of Pakistan and the late governor of Punjab, Ali Haider Gillani and Shahbaz Taseer respectively, who are confirmed non-combatants. A recent video of Gillani in chains and begging for his life was debunked by his father. However, fears for these hostages’ safety is very real.

JI chief Sirajul Haq recently said, “The failure of the talks will be a failure for the whole country,” conveniently ignoring the inability of the terrorists to control their own ‘splinter groups’. On Sunday, the JI member of the terrorists’ negotiating committee, Professor Ibrahim, claimed that a “real dialogue was yet to begin” and the negotiations should continue no matter how many times they fail. Mr Haq meanwhile hinted at the possibility of a coup in an apparent attempt to drive a wedge between the military and the government, who are steadily converging in their perception of how to deal with the terrorists. Failure in the talks is measured in lives taken by the terrorists, and this is something the government is waking up to. With the military confident it can defeat the terrorists, the waiting game appears to be drawing to a close.   *

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