One fails to understand the logic behind the Pakistan-Taliban peace talks. Pakistani society is clearly divided into two separate camps harboring diametrically opposed viewpoints concerning the Taliban. One camp holds that there is no way to deal with this menace but to crush it by force while the other camp sympathizes with the Taliban’s cause and wants the government to engage them by peaceful means.
The cherished wish of the Taliban sympathizers in Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table has finally been endorsed by the government. Now their wish has come true, and the government and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) have begun the much anticipated peace talks. According to Taliban sympathizers, everything seems to be in place but the entire process defies all logic, as far as the enlightened folks of Pakistani society are concerned. The elementary inquiry is, what is there to talk about with an entity that questions the very foundations of Pakistani society?
The historic precedent for these peace talks is the 2007 civil war in the Malakand division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), where the Taliban hoisted its flag and trampled the flag of Pakistan under foot. Not only did its leadership declare Malakand an independent state, it went a step further and declared the Pakistan army and parliamentarians infidels, who had no right to run an Islamic state, and the constitution of Pakistan was dubbed as nothing more than an anti-Islamic decree of evil.
It is all but understood that the Taliban will proceed with the peace talks process only after the government agrees to its fundamental demand of introducing Sharia laws in the country. Mere assurances would not count, and its demand is that requisite changes in the constitution be introduced forthwith, if any tangible results are to be achieved with these talks. The Taliban negotiators are no fools; they are aware of the fact that an amendment in the constitution is a long and straining process but still, their demand remains, meaning they are not serious about any peace talks. Instead, they are biding their time until they can strike with lethal force and this time around, they would cut Pakistan down to size.
Hence, the logic behind these peace talks, according to the sane elements of Pakistani society, is just an exercise in futility, an exercise undertaken by the government to appease the Americans at the cost of putting their own fledgling existence into jeopardy.The dilemma faced by the Pakistani government is that once it meets a single demand put forward by the Taliban, it will be caught in a vicious web. This is a position that no government, however inefficient or weak it may be, would ever like to be in. The level of confidence each side has for the other can be gauged by this simple example.
The main negotiator of the Taliban, Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, the head of Jamiat-e-Ulema, Pakistan (JUI-F), came to the peace talks with his AK-47 toting bodyguards. Remember, these talks are taking place in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan and not in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA). Sami-ul-Haq’s men are openly flouting prohibited ammunition in the red zone of Islamabad, implying that the Taliban has little regard for the writ of the state while also highlighting the fact that, even after assurances given by the Pakistani government, the Taliban has no confidence in the security cover provided by the government security agencies, including the Pakistani army. This, once again, reinforces the scant logic behind the Pakistan-Taliban peace talks.
Op-Ed by Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada