Written by Sajjad Shaukat
Pakistani jets bombed militants’ hideouts in some tribal and surrounding areas of North Waziristan, killing 35 terrorists including foreigners. On February 20, this year, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan clarified that Pakistan’s armed forces are undertaking strikes in FATA in ‘self-defense.’
In fact, while the committee of the Pakistan Government was conducting peace dialogue with that of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a deadlock occurred when Taliban claimed responsibility for the brutal massacre of the 23 personnel of the Frontier Constabulary in Mohmand Agency. This heinous act which was strongly condemned by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, leaders of other political and religious parties including Imran Khan and Munawar Hassan who are sympathizers of these Taliban, came as a blow from the sky, giving a greater setback to the peace process. It exposed the secret intentions of the Taliban who are employing dual tactics. Although the government has suspended the peace dialogue, yet it is still optimistic in restoring the same, as it demanded the TTP to give explanation and clearly condemn this terror-act.
Earlier, Taliban militants targeted the Rangers, Police and anti-polio workers in Karachi in wake of the peace talks. On the one hand, TTP spokesman has condemned the latest terror-events which also took place in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, on the other; he has accepted responsibility, while stating that the outfit will continue assaults on the security forces and law-enforcing agencies. So, contradictory statements of the TTP-led Taliban have endorsed that the militant group is sabotaging the peace dialogue by playing double game because it is being supported by some anti-Pakistan foreign powers.
In this regard, a report of the Interior Ministry said on February 19, this year that Islamabad is at high risk and has become target of the banned organizations-TTP and Lashkar-e-Jahngvi (LeJ). The report disclosed, “Arms and terrorists are making their way into the country through Eastern and Western borders, and cross border terrorists are also conducting terror activities in Pakistan.”
It is notable that when the TTP Chief Hakimullah Mehsud was killed by the US drone strikes on November 1, 2013, leaders of the ruling and opposition parties including prominent figures and Ulemas (Religious scholars) took the event as a plot to thwart the peace process with the insurgents. In this context, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali openly stated that that killing of Hakimullah Mehsud was a conspiracy to sabotage peace talks with the Taliban.
Now, some political and religious entities—even Imran Khan and Munawar Hassan have been pointing to some external elements which are thwarting the peace process between the TTP and the government. In this connection, without naming US, some are hinting towards the “third power”, and some are saying that Indian secret agency RAW is castigating these peace talks.
It is of particular attention that the TTP new Chief Maulana Fazlullah had dismissed the proposed peace negotiations with the government as a “waste of time”, and vowed to target the prime minister, chief minister, chief of army staff and corpse commanders. During Swat and Malakand military operations, Fazlullah fled Swat and took shelter in Afghanistan.
Well-established in Afghanistan, with the tactical support of the US, in connivance with Indian RAW and Afghan spy service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Pakistani Taliban, Maulana Fazlullah—and these foreign agencies have been conducting target killings, bomb blasts, suicide attacks, beheadings, assaults on civil and military personnel, installations and forced abductions including ethnic and sectarian violence. By sending heavily-equipped militants in Pakistan, these entities are also assisting Baloch separatists.
Particularly, the captured TTP leader Latifullah Mehsud by US Special Forces (USF) in Afghanistan confessed that Afghanistan and India were waging proxy wars in Pakistan, and terrorist attacks on Gen. Sanaullah Khan Niazi in Upper Dir, at Peshawar Church, in Qissa Khawani Bazar and elsewhere had been planned by Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies.
Unfortunately, terrorists led by the TTP use Islam as their most effective mask. Their main demands include enforcement of Islamic system of governance by imposing Shariah laws (Islamic jurisprudence) in the country, ending diplomatic relations with US and western world and undertaking Jihad against the non-Muslims. They have become self-proclaimed campaigners of Islam, rejecting all dissenting views.
Notably, the victims of terror-attacks in Pakistan have been innocent men, women, and children. While ruthless beheadings of the people, assaults on security personnel and prominent religious figures—blowing children schools and attacking the female teachers in order to deny education to girls, the militants also targeted cinemas and the places of worships. Their nefarious acts resulted into killings of several persons in Pakistan.
However, Jihad is a sacred obligation, but its real spirit needs to be understood clearly, as murdering innocent women and children is not Jihad. In fact, by implementing the instructions of their external masters, these Taliban and their banned affiliated groups are defaming Islam, concept of Jihad, and are weakening Pakistan. As terrorists have accelerated their anti-social, undemocratic and un-Islamic practices, therefore, people from all segments of life and majority of politicians want that a handful of terrorist elements must not be allowed to dictate their agenda and to impose their self-perceived ideology on the majority of Pakistanis, while supporting military action against these culprits.
During the peace process, our domestic media bluntly opined that dialogue would not succeed. Some of them cynically commented that both Taliban and the government seemed to buy time, as military operation was imminent against the former. The aim was to dishearten the mediators and the public. Media was projecting trivial details which permitted the extraneous elements to promote their own agenda through acrimonious arguments so as to spread a sense of discontentment. Consequently, the secrecy of dialogue was exposed to compromising risk. Media reports resorted to hasty coverage of all happenings, neglecting the confidentiality of contents and sometimes objective reporting was also overlooked.
On the other hand, negotiating process is likely to confront intricate impediments and extraordinary encounters for which the mediators need to develop the stamina and skills to hold information and avoid over-indulgence of media leaks of dialogue process. Thus, due to media trial, the dialogue process runs into contemptuous ridicule. It also serves the agenda of anti- Pakistan forces which have been propagating against the peace dialogue. Since media is not suitable instrument to contest issues to reach a settlement, therefore, it must be kept away from future dialogue process. Surely, maturity and negotiating skills could enable the negotiators to decently handle media and be able to maintain confidentiality of vital aspects. Live coverage and indication of the location of the government’s dialogue committee also created security hazardous situation, therefore extra-care needed to be exercised to keep the location secret. Media must also realize that the state is confronted with complex dilemma of terrorism. An opportunity had emerged to give peace a chance.
Nevertheless, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had initiated peace process with the Taliban in accordance with the decision of the All Parties Conference (APC) in which leaders of the mainstream political parties had participated. Contrarily, now, situation has entirely changed after the fresh wave of terror-attacks by the TTP and its ambivalent approach which shows its connections with the external enemies of Pakistan. So, instead of wavering between fact and scepticism by following the policy of appeasement towards all the militant groups, especially the TTP, our rulers need to devise a comprehensive strategy to deal with the terrorists with iron hands, while declaring a full-fledged military operation against terrorism, as any delay in this respect will further embolden these militants who will further intensify their subversive activities.
No doubt, deadlock in the peace dialogue is owing to dual policy of the Taliban because they are quite non-serious to observe ceasefire or to conclude any agreement with the government, as TTP is pursuing the agenda of anti-Pakistan powers to destabilize our country.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations