In retaliation for the Taliban executing 23 Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel, the Pakistani army had no viable option left but to strike back with vengeance against the Taliban. The Pakistan Air Force jets bombarded the secret hideouts of the Taliban.
Ever since the peace talks process had begun, most political commentators reportedly said both parties were not serious about the peace talks and were only biding time, for the opportune moment to strike. A fringe group affiliated with the TTP reignited the hostilities by killing 23 paramilitary FC personnel, and now it is Pakistan army’s turn to pay them back in kind.
According to unconfirmed reports, the Pakistan Air Force has heavily pounded the Pakistani Taliban hideouts in North Waziristan, the home base of TTP. There are reports that 40 people have been killed, and countless injured. The death toll and the number of injured is expected to rise significantly.
Such a move was always in the cards, as both Pakistan and the Taliban harbored deep grudges against each other even as the peace talks proceeded with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was skeptical of the entire process and on countless occasions, asked the Pakistani army to take matters into their hands and strike with force. In this volatile scenario, Imran Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), though refusing to represent the Taliban in the peace talks, was still optimistic about a positive outcome of the peace talks. It should be noted the PTI is in power in the war-torn northwestern province of Khyber Pukhtunkhawa (KP). KP shares a long and porous border with Afghanistan; it is this very no man’s land that is the hub of all criminal activity undertaken by the Taliban.
Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, the head of JUI-F (Jamiat-e-Ulema, Fazal-ur-Rehman Group), was of the confirmed opinion that the success of the peace talks between the government and the Taliban depended upon the stance of the Pakistani army. This is so because the Pakistani army has lost many of its troops at the hands of Taliban in the war on terror, and the Taliban lost its men at the hands of the Pakistani army.
It was apparent from day one that the government of Prime Minister Sharif and the Pakistani army were not on the same page as far as the issue of peace talks with the Taliban were concerned. The government of Sharif was under pressure from the Obama administration to initiate the peace talks process. The Americans want some sort of security accord between the insurgents and the government to be in place before they pull out the ISAF and NATO troops from Afghanistan. The United States does not want to repeat the same mistakes it has committed in the past that consequently led to the 9/11 tragedy.
The futility of the peace talks process can be gauged from the fact that as the militants were engaged in defining the terms about the future of the region, some fringe elements continued their violent acts against innocent civilians, and the law and order situation was worsening in KP.
The ground reality is that there are many insurgent militant groups operating within Pakistan. Most of them are under the control of TTP, as the execution of FC personnel proved. The government is also bitterly divided on this important issue as there are elements inside the cabinet that are not in favor of peace talks with the militants. In such a situation, there was no other option left for the Pakistani army but to strike back at the Taliban, and thus restore its credibility.
By Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada