Should Pakistan be confused on talks with the TTP? It should not. But it is obvious that the media a
Should Pakistan be confused on talks with the TTP? It should not. But it is obvious that the media and the political elite are confusing the nation on the nature of the TTP threat and prospects for peace. A key reason for this confusion is lack of leadership.
The federal government and its law enforcement and security institutions are unable to define the threat.
The military is better informed on the threat but is reluctant to publicly articulate or propose a policy to deal with the threat for fear of being accused of meddling in politics.
This fear is exaggerated, a legacy of the past five years. It is time the GHQ came out of this forced seclusion. While the elected government is the final arbiter on policy matters, the military should have a strong input mechanism.
In talking about TTP terrorism, the media and the political elite need guidance on who and what they are dealing with, its link to Afghanistan, the difference between pre- and post-2002 terrorism inside Pakistan, and internal weaknesses in governance and law that enable terrorists and saboteurs.
TTP terror is not just a domestic matter but is directly linked to the American-led war in Afghanistan. This loose alliance of criminal and terror gangs, known as TTP for easy reference, would not survive this long if it were not for Afghanistan.
The military operation in Swat in 2009 proved this point beyond doubt. The terrorists were wiped out in Swat. The only way some of them survived, including Mullah Fazlullah, the current TTP terror chief, is thanks to Afghan terror safe havens.
Fazlullah and other TTP commanders have links to Karzai’s spy service. His intelligence officers are linked in a symbiotic relationship with both the CIA and India. While there is nothing new about the former’s meddling in Afghanistan to engage Pakistan by proxy from the east, the CIA’s role is interesting. It played a double-game with Pakistan from the start of the second Afghan war in October 2001. While Washington engaged Islamabad as an ally, the CIA did everything to scuttle the relationship.
Pakistan cannot neutralise the TTP threat without talking to the Afghan Taliban and without eliminating the TTP safe havens inside Afghanistan. Those camps are being used to wage a regional proxy war against Pakistan. They started out as hideouts for the TTP but are now being used also by the BLA and the LeJ.
These terror groups have merged. Their handlers are using them to mount an organised wave of terror throughout Pakistani cities. Almost every social and religious fault line is under attack. The cracks and divisions within the Pakistani fabric are being widened for permanent damage to the state.
To discredit the TTP gangs, Islamabad needs to use the Afghan Taliban. We should publicly say we are not party to America’s war against the AfTaliban. This would rob the TTP of legitimacy which it claims through an association with the ‘real Taliban’ in Afghanistan.
While Fazlullah and his comrades enjoy the Afghan sanctuary, the CIA orchestrates anti-Pakistan moves inside the United States. Books and events are being commissioned to promote the idea of breaking up Balochistan.
With the American drawdown in Afghanistan moving forward, the TTP and its handlers are worried about the future of this anti-Pakistan terror group, and none more than the Indians.
The TTP’s willingness to talk to Islamabad betrays a worry for its future. It wants to save its skin, maybe secure legitimacy within the Pakistani political system and continue to operate as a permanent Trojan horse for regional powers using the Afghan soil to destabilise the region for years to come.
Whatever the case, the Pakistani policy must be clear and bold. Our media should not take cue for its talk shows from the TTP’s every day demands (‘what type of Shariah should we have?’). Instead, the public debate should remain focused on the bigger picture.
That’s where the guidance and lead should come from the government and the military.