The Pakistani state and the security establishment are not only unwilling to speak to their own citizens – whether Sindhi or Seraiki or Baluch or Pashtun or Muhajir nationalists – but they regularly pick up, detain, torture, and forcibly disappear them. However, when it comes to terror outfits these groups get away literally with murder, each and every time. And yet, the state keeps insisting that it will restart talks with them.
A recent decision by Pakistan’s National Assembly’s committee authorizing the military leadership to restart talks with the militant outfit Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan is nothing but, as Pervez Hoodbhoy notes, a “cowardly and shameful abdication of responsibility” by “a rubber-stamp parliament that is good for naught but seeking perks and privileges for its members.”
As Hoodbhoy elaborates negotiations between the army and terrorist groups have never produced results. The May 2004 Shakai agreement lasted 50 days. “Only days after signing, Nek Mohammad declared in a radio interview that no treaty could stop him from hosting the Chechen jihadists and Al Qaeda then at war with Pakistani forces. Terrorist activities resumed.”
In September 2006 another one was signed with Swat’s Sufi Muhammad “Photos showed army officers hugging those they had fought for four years as heavily armed, bearded militants watched grimly.”
What ultimately weakened terrorism and gave us a longish stretch of quasi peace was Operation Zarb-i-Azb in 2014 that was a frontal assault against TTP and its jihadist guests. Even then success was only partial and hence the need for operation Raddul Fasaad (2017).
As Hoodbhoy clarifies, “TTP killers understand only the language of force. But today, that lesson seems lost and the gains of Zarb-i-Azb and Raddul Fasaad — achieved at great cost by soldiers and officers — are being undone. A new generation of officers is again chasing fruitless appeasement. The history of how terrorism was subdued appears forgotten.”
Hoodbhoy concludes by warning “To accept the demands of TTP terrorists is poison for Pakistan. If they win in ex-Fata, how long before militancy spreads from areas as far south as D.I. Khan and Tank to the upper reaches of Dir and Swat? Like wildfire, radicalism will consume other parts of Pakistan. This is no time for dawdling. Parliamentarians: wake up before you become irrelevant. Military: do your duty and protect the physical borders of this country. We shall salute you.”
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