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Thursday, February 15, 2024

TTP peace talks: Will there be a way forward?

The easiest thing to say about the peace talks between members of the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and a team of clerics negotiating with them on behalf of the government is that it seems like Pakistan is trying to enter into another pact with the devil. The question also is whether the Pakistani military has the will and the political backing to wage the war against these basically enemies of the state.

Peace in Afghanistan is deeply linked with peace in Pakistan. History is witness to the happenings of the last 40 years in Afghanistan where Pakistan one way or the other paid a huge price, largely undue. The current scenario offers no exception and one way or the other it has started affecting Pakistan ever since TTP has got involved in the scene.

Pakistani civil and military leadership has unequivocally expressed their desire for a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan without any foreign interventions. It is a sad reality that Pakistan hasn’t got its due and instead is being maligned by certain vested interest groups, even though we have at times fought their war.

Read more: Afghan Taliban warn TTP leaders, ask to settle issues with Pakistan

Reinvigoration of TTP in Pakistan

Of the many, one key knock-on effect of the Afghanistan recent situation is the reinvigoration of TTP in parts of Pakistan. The Kabul triumph, as expected, has boosted TTP morale, ambitions and relevance.

Since Kabul’s coup, a sudden rise in militancy was unleashed, causing loss of precious lives, sending alarm bells all around. More than 70 attacks have been made mainly in the stronghold of the Taliban resulting in the martyrdom of security forces personnel.

Prima fascia, Afghanistan’s new government has repeatedly announced their stance of denying their land for use against any country. How far they walk the talk would best get unfold once their government gets stable. Nonetheless, we should hope for the best but getting prepared for the worst.

Apart from the core beliefs of Islamic Sharia and Jihad, TTP genesis has roots in our social, economic, justice and governance system.

Illiteracy, social injustices, marginalization, economic woes and political isolation lead to desperation. Once this desperation reaches a level, the victims search for opportunities to vent out frustration.

Unfortunately, fewer opportunities were available for positive utilization of that energy. The vacuum generated by decades of marginalization was adequately utilized by Taliban doctrine which capitalized on Islamic convictions, US aggression and state repression.

The mushroom growth in Taliban rank started after the Damadola US drone attacks in Bajour and Lal Masjid operation.

While successive governments were busy in misgovernance and lip service the influence of militant Islamists kept growing.

Read more: Pakistan to ask Taliban to take action against TTP

Cosmetic actions can only result in the symptomatic treatment

Peace accords were made and violated. Social and economic development of the militancy hubs was started but widespread corruption in the governance system didn’t allow it to produce tangible results.

Military interventions as a last resort could silence the guns in troubled spots but the threat has once more surfaced.

The debate would take to the conclusion that with widespread corruption, poor governance and lack of public trust, no war can be won. The recent meltdown of the Afghanistan Army to a force much lower in size, armors and facilities is undeniable proof.

Sensing the growing fear of newly fueled militancy Vis a Vis Pakistan national security meeting for review of “National Action Plan” was convened. Finger are crossed for an amicable and lasting outcome of the meeting.

Amidst that backdrop, some voices from political elites rose for an amnesty offer. The overzealous group in return issued a communique rebuking the call. Their ambitions are now no secret and their operations may get intensified and expanded if an amicable solution is not sought.

Before the situation goes out of control, we should explore options to avert the looming catastrophe.

There could be three textbook strategies to deal with; one purely military, the other a pragmatic and a third one is a combination of both.

Read more: Pakistan’s security under threat by TTP: UN report

The Military option is fighting fire with fire only

The flames of which may reach far, causing damages across, to no one advantage. A one-time victory is not the ultimate win rather a transitory respite.

The pragmatic one is solely based on engagement, dialogue, quid pro quo and space for reformed entities in the national mainstream. Though the history of exclusive peace accords and their fate depict not a rosy outcome.

PM Imran Khan in a recent TV interview has expressed his desire for table talks and spoke of the efforts initiated to engage the Taliban with the help of the Afghan government.

The third option is the hybrid solution: This strategy involves preempting a surge in militancy via coordinated intelligence, targeted operations and simultaneous engagement plus fast-paced socio-economic development.

The best possible course would be a strategic but conditional détente with TTP that goes in tandem with the structural reforms menu. That includes mainstreaming of dissidents, initiating genuine Madaris reforms, development of tribal belt, Southern Punjab and a set of governance reforms to uproot systemic ills. On the other hand, TTP has to agree to peaceful coexistence and disembarking the armed expedition.

It is imperative that a monitoring framework is developed and ratified at the start of the peace accord with reward and sanctions attached so the deal can serve the purpose. The learning from previous accords demonstrates an absence of such frameworks and was violated with impunity. To add more flesh to the accord, guarantees/ guarantors from both the parties be agreed upon at the very start.

The ultimate pathway to lasting peace and stability in Pakistan is to counter the “raison detre” and address the underlying causes.

Ushering in an arena of social justice, fair opportunities for growth, result-oriented development and an improved governance system are the recipe for a sustainable win-win.

There may be a price attached but what should reign supreme Islamic republic of Pakistan’swider long-term national interests.

Read more: Pakistani army conducts IBO in South Waziristan, two TTP militants killed

“And if two groups of believers fight each other, then make peace between them. But if one of them transgresses against the other, then fight against the transgressing group until them ˹are willing to˺ submit to the rule of Allah. If they do so, then make reconciliation between both ˹groups˺ in all fairness and act justly. Surely Allah loves those who uphold justice”.

(Quran Surah : Al-Hujraat)

Dr. Nadeem Jan (Tamgha I Imtiaz) is an internationally recognized health & management expert, who has an illustrious career with UN, USAID, World Bank, Gates Foundation, and many governments. He can be reached at Nadeemjan77@hotmail.com. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.