Twin bomb attacks were carried out at opposite ends of Pakistan this week by a group associated with the Taliban. A restaurant near a Shiite mosque was hit by a suicide bomber in the northwest city of Peshawar, killing nine people and injuring 50, while an explosion in the southwest city of Karachi derailed a train, killing one child and injuring a dozen people. The Taliban typically commits dramatic violence against civilian and/or government targets as a coercive bargaining tactic just prior to peace talks, which many people in Pakistan believe are little better than contract negotiations between the military and its minions.
Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) is currently led by Mullah Fazlullah, infamous for leading numerous attacks on civilians, including the shooting of Malala Yousafzai and her classmates in October 2012. In the past, Fazlullah has stated his emphatic opposition to peace negotiations.
Fazlullah was elected to lead TTP in November of last year, after its former leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed in a drone strike. Pakistani government officials and media pundits noisily declared the strike was an attempt by the United States to derail peace talks, previously scheduled to take place that month. However, every drone strike in Pakistan is executed with the permission of its military authorities.
The government of Pakistan and the Taliban also entered into what were announced as peace talks in February 2009, but which were really just contract negotiations. At that time, a $6 million dollar deal was struck between the government and leaders of TTP and the Haqqani Network, Baitullah Mehsud and Sirajuddin Haqqani (both later killed in drone strikes), ostensibly as compensation for property damage and fatalities resulting from Pakistani military operations.
As a result of the deal, both groups agreed to cease hostilities against Pakistani government targets, though they continued to attack Afghan civilian, military and NATO targets across the border in Afghanistan.
This week’s events in Pakistan were preceded on January 17 by a suicide attack by the Taliban on the Taverna du Liban, a Lebanese restaurant and hotel in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan popular with the international community. An official working with USAID affirmed, “This attack only enhances our resolve to combat terrorism in all its forms. They want to make insecure all the areas in which experts are staying. They have made many attacks on hotels of innocent people.”
In April 2013, the Afghan Parliament, in collaboration with Afghan and Egyptian religious scholars, took the historic step of declaring a fatwa against suicide attacks. The Wolesi Jirga (Afghanistan’s lower house of Parliament) was joined by Islamic scholars from nations across the globe, including Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nigeria, the Palestinian territories and Jordan, in proclaiming that killing innocent civilians is against Islam.
Though the fatwa may not change the behavior of previously indoctrinated members of the group, Afghan legislators believe it will make recruiting more difficult for the Taliban.
In April 2013, the Asian Human Rights Commission issued a statement describing how tribal leaders in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) were pressured by the military to enter into a peace deal with the Taliban and send a delegation to Kunar Province in Afghanistan to bring them back to Pakistan. Additionally, each tribal leader was ordered to house 30 members of the Taliban as guests in his home until the military completed construction on houses for them.
Any tribal leader who resisted the military’s orders was subjected to a diabolical scheme whereby militants would set off an IED in the vicinity of a tribal leader’s home. The perpetrator would linger nearby until someone from the military discovered him. The resisting tribal leader would then be accused of harboring a terrorist.
Such twisted narratives make clear to many that the Pakistani government is not engaged in peace talks with the Taliban, but just in negotiations over the terms of their contract.
By Melissa Roddy