Peace talks with TTP has been a key component of Nawaz Sharif’s policy. Almost immediately after being elected, the PML-N chief extended a hand to the jihadi faction, and though the hand has been slapped back repeatedly by the extremist militants, it remains extended for the time being. Whether or not peace talks are likely to result in a sustainable peace is a matter for debate, but one major media group is pushing not for peace talks but for premature surrender.
Sunday’s The News includes an editorial with the title, ‘Talking to TTP’ that should raise the hair on any patriotic Pakistani, whatever their political ideology:
The ultimate aim is to neutralise the Taliban and make them lay down their arms. We also have to convince them to stop their relentless campaign of bombings in our cities. In return, there might have to be taken the painful step of recognising the TTP as de-facto rulers of parts of the tribal areas.
Getting an enemy to stop attacking by giving them control of your land is called surrender. There is no other word for it.
As if this wasn’t alarming enough, think about the reasons given by The News for recommending surrender to the Taliban:
If this point is reached it would be a compromise that we were forced into by an intractable foe. The TTP has never abided by peace deals it previously made and we shouldn’t expect this time to be any different.
As a hypothetical, let’s apply this principle to other areas. We have been fighting India over Kashmir for over 60 years and they continue to kill Pakistani soldiers and other innocents. They are an intractable foe that breaks peace deals and cease fires. According to the principles supported by The News, we should make India de-facto rulers Kashmir.
Like the Taliban, Baloch separatists have been fighting for control of Balochistan using all means of terror including attacking Pakistan military and police as well as innocent civilians. This fight has been raging for decades and shows no signs of easing. The Baloch separatists are an intractable foe that does not abide peace deals. According to the principles supported by The News, we should make the BLA de-facto rulers of Balochistan.
Now we have given up KPK, Kashmir, and Balochistan. What is next? Will JSQM take the lesson and organize major attacks until the government agrees to make them de-facto rulers of Sindh? This will be the obvious lesson to any would-be separatist movement: take up arms against the government and you will be given whatever you want.
This may seem like a far-fetched fate, but it is the logical outcome of the principles that are being advocated by The News. On a more immediate point, though, why should we believe that granting de-facto rule of the tribal areas would be enough to satisfy the Taliban?
According to The News, if the government doesn’t strike a deal soon, “as soon as the weather improves the TTP will have regrouped and be ready to take the fight to the government”. But won’t they be given even more opportunity to regroup and expand their fight if they are given complete control of part of the country?
The Taliban has said from day one that their demands are clear: “that an Islamic system should be put into place, they should fix their foreign policy and stop agreeing to American’s demands”. The second part may be easy to grant given the American withdrawal scheduled for next year, but are we really ready to grant the first? That would essentially make the Taliban de-facto rulers not only of the tribal areas, but of all Pakistan. And why should they not regroup and continue to fight once they have been taught that fighting will get them what they want?
What would be bought would not be peace, but terror. The price we would pay would be our national existence. Such outcomes must be avoided at all costs.