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Opinion

May 29, 2013

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TTP and the Washington slot

Talks with the TTP terror group and the appointment of a new envoy to Washington are two issues topping Islamabad’s agenda after elections.
There is a new push in Pakistan for talks with the TTP. There is a lot of speculation that the country’s two largest parties post-elections – the PML-N and the PTI – want a peaceful end to the TTP’s terror and that our military is opposed to this idea. Theories and speculation won’t help in deciding this matter. Ground realities and hard facts are the best guide. A quick look at some facts would help.
First, the TTP is not a single group with a unified command. At best, we use this acronym to identify groups hiding near and across the Pak-Afghan border that target our civilians and soldiers. Almost all fighters under the TTP come under four categories: guns-for-hire, brainwashed using religion, some criminal elements, and some linked by tribal loyalties. Any effective counter-TTP strategy should include an effort to divide the different interest groups within the TTP.
Second, the TTP uses the same name and identity as the Afghan Taliban. It is important to delink the two to de-legitimise the TTP. The two have had contacts but have differed over objectives. The truth is that the ‘AfTaliban’ is different to the TTP. The AfTaliban is a legitimate Afghan group that represents a segment of the Afghan population. Whether it is good or bad is for the Afghans themselves to decide. The AfTaliban is not and should not be an enemy (or friend) of Pakistan based on American priorities in Afghanistan.
We should have good ties with all Afghans, including those opposed to the AfTaliban. But our policy should not be a carbon copy of the policy of foreign occupation forces in that country. Our American friends can be made to understand and respect this. The US army can and should fight the AfTaliban because they have an occupation/resistance dynamic. We don’t have such a dynamic with them. Our initial zeal in

humiliating ex-AfTaliban government officials, like ambassador Zaeef in 2001, was wrong and backfired.
To effectively deal with the TTP and stop it from recruiting gullible Pakistani foot soldiers in the name of the AfTaliban and anti-US resistance, we must make an official, public distinction between the TTP and the AfTaliban, and delegitimise the TTP by delinking it from its Afghan inspiration. We must also make the TTP’s Afghan safe havens a central piece in our counter-TTP policy.
Third, we must have a creative civilian programme to target the innocent, brainwashed foot soldiers that the TTP relies on to carry out suicide attacks against us. This should be a concerted programme based on information dissemination and rehabilitation. We should help defectors from the TTP start a new life. They can also help us create a database and understand how TTP terrorists survive repeated assaults, and how some powers are helping them enjoy safe havens in Afghanistan.
Fourth, the military option must be on the table even when we purse peace talks. Terrorists who kill Pakistani civilians and soldiers must know they will be shown no mercy if they fall into the hands of law-enforcement personnel before they repent. In this respect, we must reintroduce capital punishment for convicted terrorists and must be seen to carry out those sentences. Five, the TTP will survive as long as some powers continue to provide it a safe haven in Afghanistan, much in the same way that the BLA has been given bases there.
Any olive branch to the terrorists on the Afghan border must be based on some variation of these five guiding principles.
The question of the new Pakistani envoy to Washington is an important one. The downturn in Pak-American relations can be partially attributed to two diplomats who actively contributed to ruining the relationship. Anne W Patterson was an intrusive envoy who followed the CIA book of rules more than the manual on diplomacy at the State Department.
And Husain Haqqani was more interested in sanctioning the policy of sending American intelligence agents and military personnel disguised as diplomats to Pakistan, and to pursuing ideas to isolate our military, which is one of the main pillars of the state that cannot be weakened, just like parliament and the judiciary. The Patterson-Haqqani duo disfigured the Pak-American relationship.
The decision by the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs this week that future ambassadorial appointments would be denied to foreign citizens must be followed. We want good relations with United States, but a doormat ambassador in DC won’t help.
Email: [email protected]

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