The government of PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz) and the opposition PTI (Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf) are in a catch 22 position as regards to their stance towards the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban); a home grown militant outfit with its base in South Waziristan, and presently lead by Hakeemullah Mehsud.
South Wazirstan is a federally administered tribal area, popularly referred to as FATA. In these areas, the provincial government under the chief minister has no control. As is apparent, these regions come under the direct rule of the federal government whose representative in the province is the governor, the appointee of the president instead of the prime minister.
Towing the line set by U.S. President Barack Obama, Nawaz Sharif is trying his level best to win over the TTP to his side.
The APC (All Parties Conference) authorised him to open negotiation channels with the TTP. The PTI (Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf) backed his move by the good will gesture towards the TTP by requesting the army to withdraw from the Malakand division of KP (Khyber Pukhtunkhawa). Yet, in less than twenty four hours the TTP killed Major General Sanaullah Khan Niazi, the GOC (General Officer Commanding) of SWAT, and two others accompanying him; while on a visit to the forward posts along the Pak-Afghan border.
This bombing by the TTP halted the peace process before it even began. This move by the TTP angered the Pakistan army a major stake holder in the process and are needed if any peace talks are to take place.
It is reported in the national and the international press that Hakeemullah Mehsud has telephonically contacted Javed Ibrahim Piracha, an ex-MNA (Member National Assembly) of PML-N. During this conversation, which both the concerned parties deny having, Hakeemullah Mehsud sought the release of fifty prisoners accused of terrorist activities in Pakistan.
The interesting point is that this list includes the names of members of the banned anti-Shia militants belonging to the Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) and Laskhar-e-Jhangavi (LeJ), highlighting the nexus between these groups and the TTP.
To date, Pakistan has forty militant groups operating inside and some even outside the country, as far as Russia, China, Egypt and Syria. Of course, their presence in India and Afghanistan is indisputable and the TTP is the most effective of them all.
Sherry Rehman, the former ambassador of Pakistan to the United States of America is of the firm view that any peace talks with the TTP will be fruitful only when the government conducts these talks from a position of strength which, at present, is not the case.
Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician, and the chairman of PTI (Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf) who was a firm supporter of bringing the TTP to the table and one of his major promises to the nation was to engage the TTP in talks during the general elections, is also re-evaluating his stance in view of the recent events. Especially the killing of major General Sanaullah Khan Niazi, in the Upper Dir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa.
The one step forward and two steps back policy of TTP has both PML-N and PTI in a trance like state verging on restlessness and quandary as to what the leadership of TTP wants.
Written By: Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada