Bartering for peace with a piece of land

Pakistan as a state has a clear resolve that peace talks are must with the Taliban.

Bartering for peace with a piece of land

Pakistan as a state has a clear resolve that peace talks are must with the Taliban. This is a big and positive development that Parliament has been taken into confidence about regarding what leadership in power is thinking to resolve the issues. Some political philosophers believe that peace talks are the only key for peace. Some political scientists are of the view that peace talks are impossible with extremists who follow a set of religious beliefs, and they fight for their beliefs, because they will never change their beliefs and will never leave their path of armed resistance. However, one can change his or her beliefs and follow the beliefs of extremists for fixing a peace.

“If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies,” said Moshe Dayan an Israeli military leader and politician in one of his interviews in Newsweek (October 17, 1977). Palestine is a perfect example for negotiations, dialogue, and peace talks where peace has never been obtained during the last half a century because both parties are fighting for their religious beliefs not only for a piece of land.

When I wrote my article dated January 20, 2014 titled “Blast Near GHQ Rawalpindi: Killing Spree – Taliban strike Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi within 24 hours of their last attack on Army in Bannu,” the majority of my friends were annoyed with me. They had serious reservations about my headline, introduction, and even the content of my article. My friends who know me from Government College Lahore (way back in 1982) used indecent phrases for me by calling me on phone (old friends have this right actually – smile). Those who worked with me in The Nation, Frontier Post, and The News asked me “Are you ok?” etc., etc. My readers, my colleagues, and my friends and those who know me were shocked about why I appreciated the Taliban so much and praised them. However, my seniors with whom I had been working called me and appreciated me about my honesty and my insight about the entire issue engulfing terrorism in Pakistan.

I had a gut feeling that the government would move backwards and taking action against the Taliban would be suspended, stopped, or postponed, if ever any action would be initiated by security agencies. I had the feeling that the government would go for a dialogue and negotiations with the Taliban instead of announcing “war” against them. Why is the government not ready for war against the Taliban? This question is complex and does have a set of answers. I was waiting for the decision of Parliament about how to tackle terrorism, so now I am writing about the Pakistani Parliament forming a four-member committee comprised of Maj. Amir, an old friend of the Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif and a close ally of the Taliban, and, of course, a former member of the ISI team handling Islamists in the region; Rustam Shah Mahmond, who is also known for his contacts with the Taliban leadership; Rahimullah Yousifzai, a senior journalist; and Irfan Saddique, a known right wing journalist who is also an advisor to the Prime Minister for security issues. This is a positive development that all members of this committee belong to one sect – the same sect – which the Taliban belongs to. This is also very positive that they all are close to the Taliban so they are in a better position to negotiate, discuss, and talk about sensitive issues with a higher level of confidence among each other.

This committee was formed hurriedly and some hours before the speech of the Prime Minister to parliament on January 29, 2014. Rahimullah Yousifzai, when contacted, said that the Prime Minister contacted him this morning and informed him about his role in the committee, and the committee was announced on the floor of the house within a few hours. This committee will work toward providing a bridge between the Taliban leadership and the higher government authorities of Pakistan.

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The Taliban leadership has accepted this committee for negotiation and appreciated that government had come to the table for talks. The Taliban announced their eagerness for talks, with a statement that the Taliban attacked at Rangers headquarters today in Karachi. What a perfect strategy of the Taliban – pushing the state to the wall and putting more pressure on security agencies to accept their demands.

Why is government following the path of dialogue and negotiations with the Taliban? This question has multiple possible answers or propositions including:

The state is afraid of the power of the Taliban which can attack anybody at anytime, anywhere. Their members are spread all over the country, and the government has no available data about them. Intelligence sources claim that 25,000 trained, armed, and committed Taliban are living in urban areas of the country.

Saudi Arabia has successfully managed to negotiate with Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan army as a broker for the Taliban to provide a chance for the Taliban to enter into mainstream politics by stopping armed resistance.

The right-wing Pakistan Muslim League of Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif was supported by the Taliban during the 2013 general elections when the Taliban allowed only right-wing parties to campaign and attacked left-wing parties during campaigning, killing their leaders. The Taliban has high hopes that Mian Nawaz Sharif’s government will help them to install Shariah in some parts of the country. Therefore, the government is thinking of providing the physical space for the Taliban (as the previous government did by allowing Shariah in Swat valley) and buying peace from them. This time the government can offer tribal areas for installing Shariah laws.

The government wants to give a chance to the Taliban to talk and believes that the Taliban will not accept the constitution of Pakistan and then the government will be in a position to attack them. There is a possibility that right-wing parties like Imran Khan, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, and Munawar Hassan will support the government.

The government wishes peace to have a chance and honestly believes that the Taliban will accept the writ of the State of Pakistan. Government and security agencies are victims of “fatigue” and do not want to engage in war against the Taliban. There are serious threats to the families of politicians from the Taliban, and out of fear, negotiations are going to be held. The government has felt that security forces are not capable of winning this war, and the Taliban is much better in the field, compared to government security agencies.

Since there is no timetable or fixed conditions for talks, the Taliban has the moral right to keep attacking the government’s security forces, public, schools, hospitals, graveyards, shrines, and anywhere it wisesh to attack. There is one positive development out of all this exercise: ambiguity is now disappearing and clarity is coming up in the position of the government and Taliban for each other.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has informed security forces that no decision on launching an offensive in Waziristan would be taken without the consensus of all stakeholders and any such decision would be taken in the best interest of the nation. Therefore, surgical strikes or tactical strikes in North Waziristan have been suspended. The PM said this during a meeting with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif who called on him at the Prime Minister’s House on Tuesday. This indicates that civil and military leadership is on one page – to negotiate peace with the Taliban.

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