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Friday October 22, 2021

Talking amnesty

September 18, 2021

The sudden talk of granting amnesty to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan is a bizarre suggestion that comes at a strange time. Both President Arif Alvi and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi have spoken of the possibility, in separate interviews, adding that the TTP would need to mend its ways and give up violence. This rather overzealously magnanimous offer has however not been met with the same warmth from the TTP which has released a statement saying the group wishes to impose a Shariah order in Pakistan and will not be apologising for its actions so asking for an amnesty on its part is not an option. While that pretty much settles the matter, the proposal was quite extraordinary in the first place. The TTP has been responsible for some of the most horrendous terrorist attacks seen in Pakistan’s history, including the brutal massacre of schoolchildren at APS. Recent days have seen a sudden increase in the group’s activity, targeting security personnel in the country.

So how can we even talk about forgiving and granting complete amnesty to this militant organisation? Why would this even be tabled? The attack on APS Peshawar is still fresh in people’s minds. How can those who lost their children forget or forgive the TTP? Amnesty always needs to be combined with a strategy to reintegrate junior members of crime or terror syndicates into society while ensuring that those most responsible for violence be penalised under the law. It would be immensely unfair to the many victims of the TTP to allow the group off without punishment and payback for the horrendous acts of violence it has been responsible for. It is also true that in the past, attempts to reach deals with the TTP have not worked very well. We do not quite understand why the government would suggest this, virtually out of the blue, after such a long campaign against the TTP during which we lost so many of our own.

An amnesty of this sort could also easily be used as a precedent to negotiate similar deals with the many varying militant groups in the country. It is difficult to understand how Pakistan will benefit by allowing a major violent group to go free by granting it amnesty. What guarantee do we have that they will not again take up arms and reorganise themselves into a massive killing machine? Further, any indication that Pakistan may grant an amnesty to the TTP will send a wrong signal to the international community and will be like rubbing salt on the wounds of the TTP victims and their families. Whatever the factors involved in this thinking, they need to be explained to the public which has not forgotten the more than 70,000 Pakistanis, many of them security personnel, who have been killed in the long fight against a ruthless force that has massacred people everywhere without mercy. There has been absolutely no expression of regret or remorse from the TTP and assuming that they have renounced violence sounds groundless, at least for now.