Categorized | South Asian Politics


Posted on 25 September 2013 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari


  The All Parties Conference held on September 9, 2013, passed a soft resolution that created the hope that the federal government and the Tehrik-i-Taliban-i-Pakistan (TTP) would soon resume the dialogue.

 Two assumptions shaped the optimism on holding talks.  First, the two political parties, PMLN and the PTI, that performed well in the May 2013 general elections were known for sympathetic disposition for Islamic militancy. The PTI shared views with the TTP on the war on terrorism and other militant groups. The PMLN has a soft corner for militancy and it never specifically endorsed the military-led counter-terrorism efforts in the tribal areas. Therefore, it was expected that the advent of these two parties to power at the federal level and in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa will facilitate the dialogue.

 Second, the PMLN federal government bent backward in the APC resolution to accommodate the TTP for unconditional talks, describing the TTP and other militants as “our people” and “stakeholders.” It did not make any reference to the killings done by the TTP and its allies. The TTP could not get a more favorable talks offer.

 The federal government continues to show keenness to hold the talks but the TTP is playing its cards shrewdly and manipulating the federal government’s impatience for holding the talks to its advantage.

 Some dubious claims have surfaced in the media of indirect contacts between the federal government-connected people with the TTP. Such a channel, if it exists in reality, and the media is being used by the TTP for putting forward its demands without making any commitment for holding the talks or that it would accept to work within the framework of Pakistani state.

 The TTP has coupled its demands not only with the killing of two senior Army officers and a solider but also asserted that it will continue to fight against the Army.

 The TTP’s reluctance reflects the confidence of its leaders in their capacity to take on the Pakistan’s civilian government, other state institutions and the society. It is clear that the TTP is not going to give up its violent strategy even if it agrees to hold talks with the federal government. The TTP is quite clear about its long term ideological goals.

 The federal government and the PMLN have not really thought out a long term strategy of coping with terrorism beyond holding talks. The PMLN’s predicament is that it derives main political support from the political and societal circles in the Punjab that have varying degrees of support and sympathy for the Taliban and other militant groups. Most of them believe that the Taliban are friends of Pakistan and that those engaged in violence against Pakistani state and society are not genuine Taliban; they are the agents of some foreign governments in the garb of Taliban. Given the support of such a mindset, the PMLN will stretch the dialogue offer to the maximum.

  The self-confidence of the TTP and its affiliates is understandable. They have demonstrated a strong capacity to resort to violent onslaught on Pakistani state and society and withstand the counter-military moves by Pakistani state authorities.

 In the course of the general elections, April-May 2013, the TTP declared that three political parties –PPP, ANP and MQM – would not be allowed to campaign for their candidates. This threat was fulfilled by the TTP to a great extent by attacking their election-campaigning. This restricted the political activities of these parties in the run-up-to the May elections.

  Soon after the assumption of power by the PMLN at the federal level and the PTI in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the TTP and its affiliates resorted to stepped up violence. Both governments appeared helpless in the face of the Taliban attacks. Now, the TTP is buying time in order to wait for U.S. troops to drawdown in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The underlying assumption is that the Afghan Taliban will become strong and assertive after 2014 in Afghanistan which will in turn strengthen Pakistani Taliban. They mutually reinforce each other for their respective agendas in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As Pakistani Taliban see better prospects for them in the future, they cannot be keen about a dialogue wherein Pakistan’s federal government will emphasize the supremacy of the Pakistani state and its constitution.

 The experience of other states that faced internal strife and violence shows that such conflicts are resolved both by talks and military means. In Sri Lanka, the insurgency led by LTTE was crushed by the military in 2009. In Nigeria, a southeastern province separated as Biafra in 1967. Three years later the federal Nigerian forces overran the Biafra forces brought it back into the federal fold. In East Pakistan, civil strife ended with Indian intervention, war and the surrender by the Pakistan Army there. In India, the dissident movements in the Punjab, Nagaland and Mizoram were initially dealt with strong force and then political concessions and accommodations were offered.

 Even where internal strife and violence is brought to an end through dialogue, this strategy is preceded by use of violence. As long as the state is not able to demonstrate that it has the capacity to stalemate the efforts to the challenging authority, there is a little prospect of dialogue. The conflicting parties go for a political settlement when both sides comes to conclusion that it is a no-clear-win situation for both or if one side has caused a major setback to the adversary, a dialogue can be initiated to stop further bloodshed.

  In Pakistan, the TTP and its affiliates are not yet convinced that they are in an unwinnable or stalemated situation. What makes them confident is that the TTP and its affiliates have developed societal roots based on religious-denominational linkages, anti-Americanism and a failure of the government and security establishment to offer a political narrative as a credible alternative to militant-Islamic discourse on what is happening in and around Pakistan. The Islamic-militancy discourse has deeply influenced the mindset in the society as well as civilian and military official circles, sapping the will to adopt a unified stand against militancy.

 Pakistan’s security and stability predicament is too complex to be resolved by the proposed talks. The main question is how Pakistani state can change the perception of the world that it has the determination, capability and effective strategy to assert its primacy either by dialogue or military means.

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