It is hard to comprehend the Pakistani Taliban’s twisted logic and strategy, as they want to continue the peace talks with the government without declaring a ceasefire. According to Shahidullah Shahid, the Taliban spokesman, while they want to continue the peace talks with the government, they do want to continue their criminal activities unabated.
The Taliban brutally executed 23 Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel who had been held hostage since 2010. The Pakistani government retaliated by bombing their hideouts in North Waziristan, a federally-administered tribal agency (FATA). The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif does not want to derail the peace process, but it also cannot help but retaliate against the recalcitrant Taliban. This is difficult to understand, and a confusing stance by Pakistan and the Taliban.
Some political elements dub this the carrot-and-stick policy on part of the Pakistani government vis-a-vis the Taliban. Which one of them holds the carrot and which holds the stick, however, is the million dollar question.The sane elements in Pakistani society view this entire process as a futile exercise that will lead nowhere. They rightfully ask how many more innocent lives will be sacrificed before an elusive peace with the Taliban is achieved.
If the Taliban is sincere in hashing out a policy to ensure peace, then they will have to let go of any conditions and declare an unconditional ceasefire. It is hard to comprehend the Taliban’s twisted logic, as they want the government to scrap the current constitution and declare Sharia as the law of the land. In addition, they want the government to release their comrades and their families in the custody of the Pakistani security agencies. First, the Taliban wants the government to fulfill their demands, however unreasonable, and then, and only then, will they discuss peace. They want to broker peace on their terms, which no government, however weak, can accept. It is this approach by the militants that is a big obstacle in the fledgling peace talks process moving forward. Proverbially, the Taliban wants to have the best of both worlds, and continue the peace talks without declaring any ceasefire.
It is also impossible to understand the stance of some political leaders in Pakistan, like Imran Khan. Khan, the chairman of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), is a vocal supporter of the peace talks, but to date, he has not come up with solid solutions to the problem. Everyone in Pakistan wants peace, but at what cost? If the Taliban want peace at the risk of bifurcating Pakistan, then it is an unacceptable proposition to the government as well as the common man.
The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is also divided on the issue. Some members of the cabinet want the peace process to succeed while others are in favor of a military option. Another pressing issue faced by the government of PML-N is the high treason trial against General Musharraf. This trial is a bone of contention between parliamentarians belonging to both the government and the opposition.
Today, Pakistan is passing through a crucial juncture in its troubled history. The government does not have the luxury to mull over these pressing issues indefinitely. The country has to come up with a viable solution, and soon. Otherwise, all will be lost. At such a sensitive stage in Pakistan’s history, it is hard to comprehend the twisted logic of the Taliban, as they want to talk peace without declaring a ceasefire.
By Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada