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May 26, 2014

No criticism of US this time as talks with Taliban almost fail

May 26, 2014

PESHAWAR: The talks between the government and the Taliban have almost failed but for the first time the US is not the target of criticism thanks to the halt in the CIA-operated drone strikes.
The myth that the US always derailed the talks purposely through drone strikes was broken, said analysts, as the unmanned aircraft didn’t launch even a single attack during the negotiations. This US approach seems to have scaled down the anti-American sentiments in Pakistan and laid bare the fact that militants are hard to reconcile with.
This time the focus is not on the US but on the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz federal government and the military and on how they weigh up the options. And on Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf that always believed the US intentionally disrupted the peace talks with the Taliban.
“The myth that the drone attacks have been sabotaging the peace talks has been broken. In fact, it was a lie that was spread,” said Brig (retd) Mahmood Shah, a security analyst.
There are indications that opposition to the military operation might dilute. The big detractor of military action against the Taliban has been the PTI but it didn’t react vociferously to the recent air strikes in North Waziristan where the military claimed killing around 75 militants.
The PTI is showing signs of support for a military offensive. Its central spokesperson even called upon the PML-N government to take political ownership of the military operation in the tribal areas.
“The government cannot abandon the military when our soldiers are being martyred, so [it] needs to have political ownership of any military action. Take responsibility,” Shireen Mazari said in a tweet on Sunday.
She didn’t insist on the continuation of talks with the militants. Rather, she asked the government to let the political leadership know about its fate. “The government must inform political leadership if dialogue (as mandated by APC) called off and must take

political ownership of military operation (or ‘calibrated response.’),” she said in another tweet.
It points to a change in policy by PTI that always opposed the use of force. Does it show that the party is convinced the talks were heading nowhere?“I think the myth that has broken will benefit Pakistan,” Mahmood Shah said. The former military officer indicated the people would support military action after the recent talks. “There is no example in the world that such a violent conflict has been solved through talks. Negotiations have always succeeded when violent elements have renounced violence,” he argued.
He said a realistic approach by political parties would have led them to demand stern action against the militants. He said the PTI needed to change its stance on military operation against the militants as its Nato blockade had undermined trade with Afghanistan and led to loss of jobs. He criticised the political parties for not supporting the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance that, in his view, would help convict terrorists.
Ijaz Khan, professor of International Relations at the University of Peshawar, doubted the PTI would accord full support to a military operation. “It has a weird stance. It has sympathies with Taliban, and it does not want to offend the army,” he said.
He felt that the people should support the military action against the militants. “It’s also important how the PML-N government owns this operation,” he remarked. Shireen Mazari gives no indication that her party would oppose a military offensive. She only appears concerned about the people the military operation would displace. “Government should evacuate civilians as happened in Swat. These are our people and government’s callousness [is] evident in simply abandoning NWA civilians to their fate.”

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