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September 16, 2013

Acceptance of Taliban demands amounts to govt surrender

 
September 16, 2013

ISLAMABAD: The PML-N government’s peace initiative with the Taliban has suffered a major setback with the killing of a high-ranking Army officer in a roadside bomb blast and the subsequent responsibility claim coming from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The General Officer Commanding of Swat Major General Sanaullah Khan Niazi and his right hand man Lieutenant Colonel Tauseef were killed 24 hours after the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government announced that the withdrawal of the troops from Malakand Division would begin next month and that the civil administration would take over control of Swat and other districts accordingly.
Shiraz Paracha, spokesman for Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, had said the withdrawal could begin in mid-October. The withdrawal announcement in fact coincided with the federal government’s decision to launch peace talks with the Taliban in the light of the resolutions of an all-party conference held last week in Islamabad which was also attended by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and the ISI chief.
The Pakistan Army had to launch a massive military operation in Swat district of Malakand Division in May 2009 after the Taliban led by Maulana Fazlullah alias Mullah Radio established a parallel administration in Swat and other adjoining districts. The Air Force assisted the Army and after successful completion of the operation and restoration of the state’s writ, it was decided that the troops would stay on in Malakand and build cantonments in different areas. Fazlullah and his private army escaped from Swat and took shelter in Afghanistan. Therefore, the KP government’s announcement to withdraw the troops was quite surprising and was apparently meant to appease the Taliban.
A day before the killing of the GOC Swat, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had warned that some influential groups and forces have become active to sabotage the APC-approved and military-backed dialogue process with local

militants. He said that after the recent APC, it had come to his notice that there were some serious attempts being made to push the situation for a military operation instead of talks and peaceful resolution of the crisis.
But the TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid’s responsibility claim has abundantly made it clear that it was none other than the TTP which was bent upon sabotaging the government’s peace initiative which has been described by many as a “national surrender”.
“Our men did it,” so said the TTP spokesman after the attack that killed the GOC Swat.Earlier, on Saturday night, the Taliban ambushed a group of tribal policemen travelling in a vehicle near Bannu, killing two of them and wounding four others.
Two years ago, the TTP had tried to kill the then General Officer Commanding Swat Major General Javed Iqbal on September 21, 2011 when his helicopter came under attack near Upper Dir. Maj Gen Iqbal was shot in the leg but the helicopter was able to keep flying. The general was taking an aerial view of the troops deployment.
However, the killing of the GOC Swat is going to seriously affect the pace of the ongoing peace process which had even been backed by the COAS during the recently held APC, with General Kayani saying: “The government and the armed forces were on the same page on the issue of talks with the militant groups and it is for the politicians and the government to decide the policy. The army and the military establishment will fully back such a policy.”
Although the TTP spokesman had welcomed the government’s unconditional offer of peace talks, the killing of a high-profile general, followed by the responsibility claim, indicates that there is no cessation of violence on the part of the Taliban, let alone renouncing force. To tell the truth, the Taliban have upped the ante after the recent APC calling for the state to show more sincerity before the negotiations. “The government will also have to convince the Army and to decide on a roadmap for the talks,” the former TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan was quoted as saying a day after the APC was held.
Quite intriguingly, the day the GOC Swat was killed, the TTP spokesman demanded that the government release militant prisoners and begin withdrawing troops from the TTP’s tribal sanctuary before they participate in peace talks, thus raising doubts about prospects for negotiations.
According to Shahidullah Shahid, the TTP’s Shura issued the peace talks demands following a meeting to discuss the government’s offer to negotiate.“The Taliban have been deceived in the past in the name of peace, so the government will have to take some steps before the start of talks to assure the Taliban that the government is serious about the peace process,” Shahid told a news agency from an undisclosed location.
“The government must release Pakistani Taliban militant prisoners and show that it is withdrawing soldiers from the tribal region along the border with Afghanistan. If the government does not take these two steps, the peace process cannot move forward,” the TTP spokesman said.
On the other hand, it would be quite hard for the government to fulfil the TTP demands which were made hardly a few hours after the killing of a high-profile Army general and that too by the Taliban.
Despite the military leadership’s nod for the peace talks, there are still those in the security establishment who believe that the Islamabad APC’s resolution was a document of surrender and that accepting these demands would essentially amount to admitting defeat of the state as well as that of the security forces against those who have let loose a reign of terror in Pakistan and killed 40,000 plus civilians and civvies.
Analysts say conceding to the demands set by the TTP (hours after the Taliban killed Major General Sanaullah Khan) would tantamount to surrendering whatever is left of the writ of the state and hence bowing out to those who are trying to enforce their own brand of Islam in Pakistan.

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