Talks with TTP
THE timing was likely a coincidence, but the stark contrast in the comments made on Thursday by Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Nawaz Sharif says much about the confused response of the state to the threat from militancy. In a meeting with outgoing Isaf commander in Afghanistan Gen John Allen, the Pakistan army chief is quoted in an Isaf press release as having acknowledged that “there is more to do”. Yes, there is more to do, Mr Sharif echoed in a statement of his own, but it is for the government to better negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban. What is particularly striking about Mr Sharif’s statement is how it contained not a word of condemnation of the TTP’s violence or its agenda. Instead, the PML-N supremo saw fit to throw in several digs at the government for its “track record” of unreliability.
Since Mr Sharif has raised the issue of a track record, it would make sense to examine the track record of the Taliban themselves in both honouring previous peace agreements and in carrying out ugly and savage attacks against both state and society repeatedly. Which peace agreement have the Taliban ever adhered to? Have they evicted the foreign terr-orists operating among them on Pakistani soil? Have they renounced ties with Al Qaeda? Have they laid down their arms and accepted the democratic system? Have they exhibited any tolerance for the basic principles of the Pakistani constitution? The answer to each of those questions is no — so perhaps the more relevant question for Mr Sharif, and others advocating peace deals with the TTP at this stage, is: who will guarantee that the TTP will abide by the terms of an acceptable peace deal, and how? It’s almost perverse that the offer of talks by the Pakistani Taliban has come in the middle of an alarming wave of violence carried out by them — and yet some politicians are advocating extending the hand of peace to groups that want nothing more than to hack off that arm and plunge a knife into the heart of the very idea of a modern state.
Sifting through the possible reasons for the TTP’s offer of talks, it is apparent that driving a wedge in politics and society was a likely priority. As Gen Kayani and his army have lamented — though of course there is much more than meets the eye there — the state cannot win a war in which society and politicians are divided about the very necessity of that war. Mr Sharif appears to have taken the TTP’s bait and the country will be all the worse off for it.