After many twists and turns in the plot, groundbreaking peace talks between the Taliban and Pakistan begin amidst widespread rumors that Pakistan is ready to launch a major offensive in North Waziristan. North Waziristan, located in the semi-autonomous tribal belt, is the home base of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). These peace talks are taking place at an undisclosed location in Islamabad. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has instructed members of the government to keep him posted of all developments.
Prior, the peace talks had suffered many delays and at a certain point, political quarters suggested that they would never take place. This position was held by many political leaders also, especially when Imran Khan and Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman refused to play the part of mediators on behalf of the Taliban.
In addition, at the eleventh hour, the government failed to show up for preliminary talks with the Taliban. The Taliban, in response to this snub, carried out a suicide bomb attack in Peshawar, killing nine and injuring more than a dozen people.
After the attack, there was a demand by the Taliban that the CIA-operated drone attacks against them be stopped before any talks could take place. Americans partially consented to scale down these attacks, so that the peace talks could begin.
Most detractors maintained that no peace talks will ever take place as the Taliban want Sharia laws to be implemented first in Pakistan, and only after that would they begin the peace talks. In the ensuing time, rumor mills were in overdrive in Islamabad about the ultimate fate of these peace talks with the TTP. Certain quarters in the establishment had written off the taking place of any such talks as they held that both parties were not really serious about negotiations; rather, they advocated a military option as a solution. But against the backdrop of this pessimism, the peace talks have begun, though rumors are adrift that the Pakistan army is ready to launch a major offensive against the Taliban in North Waziristan.
The present talks are very important for the Americans. They have been working day and night behind the scenes in order to make them possible. The Obama administration wants these peace talks to succeed because the Americans want to be absolutely sure that they leave behind a peaceful region once the foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan. It is in their best interest that the government of Pakistan and the Taliban reach an accord whereby the stability of the volatile region is secured.
After these talks are successful in nuclear-armed Pakistan, the next step would be to initiate a similar peace process in Afghanistan. It must be noted that as Hamid Karzai played an instrumental role in bringing about the two warring parties to the negotiation table in Pakistan, so it is hoped that Pakistan with its considerable clout among the leadership of the Afghan Taliban will eventually convince them to reach some peace accord with the Afghan government.
The first step toward the dream of a stable region has been taken today as the Taliban peace talks begin at Islamabad. But this is amidst rumors that the Pakistan army is ready to launch a major offensive in North Waziristan.
Editorial by Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada