The Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Pervaiz Khattak who also happens to be a member of the Central Executive Committe (CEC) of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) in a communique issued from his home town Nowshera, informed the representatives of the media that he has asked the Pakistan Army to withdraw from the Malakand Division. While the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), unconditionally released seven hostages, at Niel Kuch area, South Waziristan , also in KP.
According to him this withdrawal would take place in two phases. During the first phase the army will pull out of two districts of Malakand Division, namely Shangla and Buner. This pull out will start out from middle of October.
The second phase of the withdrawal is tied up with the pulling out of the NATO forces from Afghanistan. In this phase the army would withdraw from three remaining districts, that is Swat, Upper and Lower Dir.
The defense analysts urge that it is a gesture of good will shown by the PTI government to the TTP. They argue that the release of seven hostages, employees of the Gomal Zam Dam, a hydro-electric project funded by the United States, in reciprocity to the government’s move, lends credence to their point of view.
Eight men were taken hostage in August, 2012 but now only seven are released by the TTP. This apparent mystery is resolved when we look over the events of the past year during which a video was released showing the summary execution of a man. This execution is believed to be of Mushtaq, one of the employees of the Gomal Zam dam. He was purportedly killed to exert pressure on the government in order to seek fulfillment of their demands.
The Peshawar High Court had directed the government back then that the release of these hostages must be brought about even if ransom had to be paid to the TTP. It is believed by those who are privy to the whole situation that the jirga was able to get these hostages released after the government of PTI paid the TTP Rs. 25 million.
These home grown Taliban lead by Mulla Fazalullah, had started flexing their muscle as far back as 2007, when they challenged the writ of the government of Muthaida Majlis-e- Amal in the former North West Frontier Province (NWFP), now renamed as Khyber Pukhtunkhawa (KP). Muthaida Majlis-e-Amal was an alliance of religious parties cobbled together by the ISI, back in the days of General Musharaff’s rule.
By 2009, the TTP had become a real force to be reckoned with as it started handing out justice by holding sharia courts under their own commanders, sitting as judges. During this time many people were publicaly beheaded or hanged in town squares, some on such flimsy pretexts of not growing a beard; while women who did not observe purdah or visited the market place unaccompanied by their father, husband or son were handed out the medieval punishment of lashes in public.
It was at this juncture that the help of the army was sought to curb down this menace of TTP. After fighting guerrilla war with the army for more than two years, majority of it was weeded out by the army while the remnants of TTP escaped into the neighboring Afghanistan provinces of Nuristan and Kunhar from where they launch sporadic attacks and suicide bombings to this day. The most recent and perhaps the most famous of these attacks was on Malala Yousafzai and her two classmates, in Mingora city, the capital of Swat.
The PTI came to power in KP on the promise that in order to end this violent spree perpetrated by the TTP on the innocent people of the KP, in particular and the whole of Pakistan, in general, it would engage TTP in talks. This withdrawal of army is a step in that direction. Only time will tell whether the PTI is right or wrong in its strategy. But one thing is for sure, at present TTP is 1, while the PTI 0, in this match of nerves.
By: Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada