Peace talks, again?!

Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s controversial statement where he thanked the Taliban for not attacking the Shias in Muharram set off a round of speculations. Reports started to emerge that the government was in negotiations with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a tried and old policy that has so far failed to bring about any positive results. The TTP in Bajaur first announced that it was indeed talking to the government but another TTP spokesman denied this. It seems that the TTP is now speaking with many voices, which may indicate a splintering of the militants into various factions. This makes it difficult for the government to negotiate with them but at the same time may make it relatively easier to deal with the Taliban militarily. Mr Malik also denied any talks were underway and said, “If the TTP surrenders, the government would definitely consider talks.” Leaving the door open for those who want to come in out of the cold is wise in any counterinsurgency, but never have the Taliban laid down their arms in the past. The TTP may be considered ‘bad Taliban’ in our official parlance but the hopes of the Pakistani authorities that they would somehow transform into the ‘good Taliban’ is incorrect and flawed. The nexus between the local Taliban extends to the so-called ‘good’ Afghan Taliban and even al Qaeda. The concept of good Taliban is wrong as they are anything but good! This is a mistake that persists despite all the evidence to the contrary.

The Taliban are made up of intransigent forces and without hard measures, they will not give up terrorism. The TTP has found sanctuaries across the Durand Line thanks to the Afghan Taliban. Some ‘stick’ needs to be administered in order to get positive results. Peace deals have only strengthened the Taliban in the past and they have come out stronger after buying some time to regroup. To put an end to this menace, military means cannot be dispensed with. Pakistan has already made far too many concessions to the Taliban. We should learn from our mistakes instead of committing the same blunders again and again.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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