Toothless Committee to Engage Taliban

PM Sharif and the four member committee

Finally Islamabad has constituted a four member, albeit, toothless committee to engage Taliban for peace talks. The four members of the committee are, two prominent journalists, one seasoned diplomat and a former  disgraced and unceremoniously retired Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) officer.

Two imminent journalists in the committee are Rahim Ullah Yousafzai and Irfan Siddiqui. Yousafzai, is perhaps , one of the few men who have interviewed both Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Muhammad Omar. Siddiqui, besides being a journalist of repute is also the special assistant of Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister, on national affairs.

Rustam Shah Mohammad, the third member of the committee, was a career diplomat of the elite foreign service of Pakistan. He was ambassador to Kabul when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan.Pakistan was the first and one of the few states that welcomed the fundamentalist government of Taliban, into the comity of nations. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates followed suit. Mohammad, like Yousafzai, is a Pathan, and in addition, belongs to Sayed family. The Sayed’s trace back their lineage to that of Prophet Muhammad (PUBH), another plus for him being a member of the committee.

The fourth member of this committee is Major retired Muhammad Amir. Amir  an ex-ISI officer is the famous character of the infamous covert operation Midnight Jackal, during the rule of Benazir Bhutto in 1989. She became the first female prime minister of an Islamic state, in the elections held after the death of Zia-ul-Haq. His C-130 plane crashed under mysterious circumstances. In this crash. the then Ambassador of United States was also killed. Amir, was subsequently, court martialed for his part in the cold war era operation Midnight Jackal. Amir, also is of the Pathan stock and belongs to a family of  saints, hailing from Punjpir (five saints), a village near the city of Mardan in Khyber Pathunkhawa (KP).

The committee is toothless because it does not include clerics like Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, the head of Jamaat-e-Ueama-e-Islam (JUI-F) nor Maulana Sami-ul-Haq (JUI-S). Both these clerics hold immense clout within the ranks of both Pakistan and Afghan Sunni Pathan Taliban. It is so because the majority of leadership of Taliban and its rank and file are students of the seminaries run by them. It also goes without saying that these seminaries are the basic recruiting grounds of Taliban, from all over the world, now.

The committee is also of no consequence because it doesn’t include any serving or retired official of Pakistan army of good repute, nor any political leader with national following. Majority of political analysts stress that this is only an exercise in futility. These political commentators hold that this committee has been formed, on one hand to satisfy the demand of the opposition Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) and on the other hand to show to the Americans that the government is serious in its commitment to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table. Specifically, before the proposed pull-out of the American led ISAF and NATO troops from Afghanistan.

The major stake holders, the Pakistan army and the Taliban have shown lackadaisical response to this move on part of the government. Both parties want to settle the issue on the battle-field rather than on the negotiation table. Nationally and internationally, whom the government of Sharif is trying to fool, is a million dollar question. Even the lay man knows that not even one member of this toothless committee has the requisite credentials to engage the Taliban to come to the negotiation table.

By Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada


The Boston Globe

The Nation

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