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May 17, 2013

TTP may revive talks offer to Sharif govt

 
May 17, 2013

ISLAMABAD: The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is most likely to revive its offer of peace talks to the incoming government of Nawaz Sharif who had been already named by the TTP as a guarantor to ensure that the peace deal is not violated by the army.
While extending an offer of peace talks to the PPP government on February 3, 2013, TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan had named the PML-N President Nawaz Sharif, the JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and the Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Munawar Hassan as the three guarantors the Taliban would like to have in any peace agreement with the government “to ensure that the Pakistan Army, which is the real power in the country, does not violate the accord, as had been the case with the previous peace deals” [struck between the military and the militants].
However, since the PPP government refused to hold talks with the Taliban unless they lay down arms and renounce militancy, the TTP had temporarily suspended its offer of peace talks with the government [on March 20, 2013]. The TTP announcement came in the backdrop of the March 19 resolve expressed by the military leadership during the quarterly meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC), which is the principal advisory body of the armed forces, to continue the ongoing fight against terrorism at all costs.
While temporarily suspending the talks offer, TTP spokesman stated that the decision was taken in view of the PPP government’s non-serious attitude. “The TTP offer was a sincere move to put an end to the bloodbath across Pakistan but the government missed the opportunity because of the Army’s unwillingness to give a go ahead to the civilians to initiate dialogue.
On the other hand, the country’s security establishment had maintained that the TTP was never sincere in holding talks and that each and every peace deal signed with the militants was unilaterally discarded by the Taliban who had in fact used these pacts to regroup and re-strengthen

them to re-launch fresh offensives. To tell the truth, despite extending the offer of talks, the TTP neither laid down arms nor stopped its terror spree to show that it was actually sincere in a truce.
As the TTP accelerated its terrorist activities against liberal and secular political parties especially the PPP and the ANP on the eve of the 2013 elections, terrorism experts had maintained that the Taliban were actually trying to strengthen their bargaining position for talks with the future government. As the Sharif-led PML is all set to form the next government in Islamabad following the general elections, Ehsanullah has said they do not rule out a ceasefire if the new government shows seriousness to their dialogue offer.
“If the next government takes our offer of talks seriously and makes some progress, we can also come up with a positive response by stopping attacks as a goodwill gesture”, Ehsanullah Ehsan has been quoted as saying. To a question about Nawaz Sharif’s recent statement that the Taliban’s offer would be taken seriously, the TTP spokesman said: “We have read Nawaz Sharif’s statement and respect it. But we are not declaring any ceasefire yet because any such decision will mainly depend on the approach of the next government”.
However, according to well-informed PML-N circles, Nawaz Sharif has already made up his mind to respond to the TTP’s talks offer positively in a bid to put an end to the ongoing bloodshed. Nawaz was the first politician to have asked the PPP government to take the Taliban’s offer seriously and begin a serious, meaningful and result-oriented dialogue without any further delay. In the same breath, however, he had declined TTP’s offer to become a guarantor, saying, “No one could act in that capacity, given the past record of the government.” The PPP had described Nawaz support to the dialogue offer of the TTP as a selfish move to paint himself as a man of peace in a bid to stay in their good books.
While the coalition governments of the PPP, ANP and the MQM in Islamabad, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa took a tough stand against the TTP-sponsored terrorism, the Punjab government of Shahbaz Sharif was accused of pursuing a policy of appeasement towards the TTP-linked anti-US, anti-Shia and anti-India jehadi extremist organisations which were allegedly allowed to operate freely. Nawaz Sharif’ decision not to condemn the Taliban attacks against the PPP, ANP and MQM candidates during the 2013 election campaign had made these parties to label the TTP as the military wing of the PML-N, a charge which was refuted strongly by the N-League.
As Nawaz Sharif is about to assume power in the centre, analysts say it would be hard for him to strike a peace pact with the TTP [without the consent of the establishment] which has so far killed thousands of Pakistani security forces personnel and civilians, thus prompting the military to revise its decades-old India-centric Doctrine to recognize the homegrown militancy, especially Taliban, as the biggest threat to national security. Bu the PML-N circles are resolute to hold talks with the TTP, maintaining that if the US could talk to Afghan Taliban, why Islamabad couldn’t talk to the Pakistani Taliban.
On the other hand, the khaki circles say the politicians simply ignore the hard fact that the Afghan Taliban is a political movement which had governed Afghanistan and is trying to fight out the ‘foreign occupation forces’ to get hold of the government in Kabul. On the other hand, they point out that the Pakistani Taliban are al-Qaeda-linked non-state actors; they neither recognize the territorial boundaries of Pakistan nor its government; they have waged an open war against the state of Pakistan and are still fighting against the Pakistani security forces.

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