Categorized | South Asian Politics

THE UNCERTAIN FUTURE OF THE TALKS WITH THE TALIBAN

Posted on 24 April 2014 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari

Lahore

  The last week’s decision of the Tehrik-i-Taliban-i-Pakistan to discontinue the ceasefire against the Pakistani state and its people has minimized the chances of any political settlement through negotiations between the Pakistani Taliban and the government of Pakistan. The chances of success of these talks were already slim. Now, the Taliban threat to resume attacks leaves little space for meaningful talks.

 If the tribal areas based Taliban attack military installations and civilians, Pakistan’s security forces will hit-back the Taliban with full force. The Pakistan military will not start security operation by itself. It will wait for the Taliban to resort to suicide and other types of bombings. After such incidents the military will go for a full-force attack on the Taliban hideouts and training centers in the tribal areas. The January security operation against the Taliban by the Pakistan Army relied on gunship helicopters. There was a limited use of ground troops. This attack was meant to show the violent groups in the tribal areas that their violent activities will not go unchallenged. A similar strategy of specific and targeted operation will be used in the future.

  The Taliban decision to retain the option of attack is the outcome of the internal conflict in the Taliban organization. Two factions in the Pakistani Taliban have fought against each other in North and South Wazirstan for the control of the organization during the last three weeks. This internal conflict has hardened the overall attitude of the Taliban groups towards Pakistan because each competing group wants to demonstrate that it is the best protector of the organization’s interests and can adopt a tough position against Pakistan.

 Further, the Taliban have misread the soft signals from Pakistan’s federal government. It appears that the Taliban have viewed the cooperative attitude of the federal government as a sign of weakness. They decided to increase pressure on the federal government by refusing to continue with the ceasefire.

 The recent negotiations between the federal government and the Taliban show that the federal government was keener than the Taliban for a political settlement through talks. Therefore, it did not insist on any condition in the dialogue because of the fear of the Taliban walking out of the dialogue process. It was virtually begging the Taliban to come an agreement. This was partly because of the Right-wing and Islamist mindset of the leadership of the Nawaz Muslim League that views the Taliban as an angry group rather than an adversary of Pakistan. Most of the Nawaz Muslim League leadership was convinced that as they had not openly criticized the Taliban, the latter will be willing to talk with the Nawaz League government and come to a political settlement.

 This assessment proved wrong because the talks held so far did not show any hope of a settlement because the Taliban refused to accommodate the federal government. The Taliban demanded the fulfillment of three conditions for going ahead with the talks.

 First, all Taliban prisoners should be released. This process must start with the release of non-combat Taliban personnel. The Taliban gave three lists of prisoners which contained names ranging from 300 to 700.

Second, the federal government should pay compensation for the losses suffered by them at the hands of the security forces.

Third, the Pakistan military should withdraw from the tribal areas.

 As a gesture of goodwill it should first withdraw from a specified area where the Taliban will be free to pursue their lives. The federal government released some 19 Taliban prisoners but the Taliban did not welcome this, arguing that their names did not appear in the Taliban list of prisoners.

 On the other hand the federal government did not put forward any specific condition for the Taliban to accept. In speeches and statements some federal ministers and the prime minister argued that the talks would be held within the framework of the Pakistan’s Constitution. However, the representatives of the federal government did not suggest this condition in the talks with the Taliban.

 The Taliban have blamed the federal government for the problems in the talk and refused to admit that they did not give any concession to the government ever since the talks were started between the federal government and the Taliban.

  The Nawaz Muslim League continues to talk about a negotiated settlement with the Taliban despite the fact the Taliban have never indicated that they want to live in peace within the framework of the Constitution.

  The Taliban entered the talks not for agreeing to work within the framework of the Constitution and law. They cannot accept that because if they agree to work within the limits of the Constitution, the Taliban character will have to be changed from a violent Islamic movement to an Islamic party like other Islamic parties in Pakistan.

 The Taliban want to chalk out a framework for interaction between them and the Pakistan state: how these would interact with each other rather than the Taliban working under the Pakistani state?

It is like two states agreeing on a framework for pursuing peaceful neighborly relations. Such an arrangement will not be acceptable to the Pakistan military as they are opposed to withdrawal from the tribal areas and they would not give a secure “safe-haven” to the Taliban. Major political parties and societal groups will also reject this formula.

  The latest meeting of the Cabinet Committee on National Security held on April 17 expressed its determination to retaliate if the Taliban attacked. It is very likely that the Pakistan military will launch a major security operation in North Waziristan in May-June. It wants to establish its effective control in the tribal areas and on the Pakistan-Afghan border before most of American and NATO troops withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

 The summer of 2014 is expected to witness a lot of military and non-military activity in Pakistan. This will include a security operation in the tribal arrears. If the federal government did not go along with the military for security operation it will have more problems with the military and the opposition political parties.

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