Wednesday July 06, 2022

TTP talks

By Editorial Board
June 24, 2022

It is in the fitness of things that the Prime Minister’s Office in Islamabad has clarified that all negotiations with the banned terrorist group, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), would be only under the ambit of the constitution of Pakistan. The briefing to the political leadership on progress in talks has taken place at an appropriate time; and according to reports, an in-camera parliamentary session is also to be convened soon. Keeping in view the past track record of the TTP, it is imperative that no extra-constitutional concessions are agreed to. This is also why parliamentary oversight and approval is so necessary. Any deal with a terrorist group requires utmost care and involvement of the most apposite interlocutors from both sides, and must be subject to the parliamentary nod in the affirmative. The constitution of Pakistan is fairly clear in its provisions about the conduct of the country’s foreign policy and parliament is the apex body that provides guidance in all major policy decisions.

Ideally, there should be a high level of consensus in such matters as the TTP is an outfit that has been striking within Pakistan’s territory for at least 15 years now. The TTP attacks have claimed thousands of lives including children and women. They have not spared hospitals and schools, nor displayed any consideration for the elderly in their targets. That is one reason there has to be a well thought-out plan before the TTP gets any concessions. There is a lot of onus on the Afghan Taliban too that are in need of international recognition. The Afghan Taliban have displayed an ambiguous attitude towards the TTP and, quite contrary to expectations in Pakistan, have not been able to restrain the TTP. If the past is any guide, the country has witnessed multiple deals, peace agreements, and truces with various militant groups and most of them did not help much. The militant group has a tendency to go back on its promises and resume attacks on civilian and military targets. A ceasefire was agreed between the previous government and the TTP back in November 2021 but the TTP couldn’t stick to it for more than a month. Now another ‘indefinite’ ceasefire has been announced by the Afghan Taliban between Pakistan and the TTP while negotiations are taking place. In the past, we have seen several peace agreements between the TTP and the government of Pakistan from 2004 to 2009. But each time the TTP violated those peace deals and continued its terrorist attacks.

The incumbent government has a wider representation of large and small political parties and groups. The PTI as a major political party should have also attended the meeting but since its members have resigned from the National Assembly and their status is unclear, they were not invited. For such important matters, there is a need for all political parties and the security establishment to consider explicit and implicit ramifications of any possible deal with the TTP. Since Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been a major target of the TTP, it has the most stake in this deal. There is a need to involve not only the KP political leadership but representatives of civil society and the victims’ family members too. Our parliament will hopefully make sure that the deal with the TTP is not giving in to unjust demands and that those who have been proved to be involved in the worst crimes against our people face justice. There may not be a permanent military solution to any conflict situation but talks do not mean ceding hard-earned ground.