ISLAMABAD: Apparently, the chances of direct talks between the newly elected government and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have just vanished after the Taliban withdrew their offer of talks in the wake of the killing of one of their leaders in a recent drone attack.

Political insiders say that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is seriously trying to woo the Taliban leadership back into the negotiation process which could ultimately lead the two sides onto the arbitration table.

The strong condemnation of latest drone attack on last Friday by the Sharif government was just intended to convey this message to the Taliban leadership that his government was neither party, nor complacent in the continued campaign of drone attacks in the Pakistani tribal areas.

Experts and political allies of the government say that Sharif government’s first strong reaction against the latest drone attack in tribal areas was aimed at achieving a definite objective: to woo Taliban back into dialogue process, which has been completely discontinued in the wake of killing of Taliban’s second in command, Waliur Rehman Mehsud in a drone attack later last month.

PM Sharif’s adviser Tariq Fatemi, acting on the premier's instructions, summoned US Embassy’s Charge D'Affaires Richard Hoagland to the Foreign Office a day after the latest attack and protested that the drone attack campaign was completely unacceptable.

The same day, PM Sharif himself conveyed the same message to the visiting German foreign minister, who called on him in Islamabad.

“Drone attacks must stop. We have protested many a time. This is simply unacceptable,” he commented in a meeting with German Foreign Minister Dr Guldo Westerwelle.

Early in the day, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam – Fazl (JUI-F) chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman met the premier and advised him that he must publicly distance his government from the drone attacks if he wants to woo Taliban back into the process that could lead to direct talks between government and the tribal areas-based militant organisation, JUI official spokesman Jan Muhammad Achakzai told Dawn.com.

Pakistani Taliban have withdrawn their offer of talks with the government following the drone attack that killed their deputy chief, Waliur Rehman Mehsud, saying that the Pakistan government and the military are party to these drone attacks that are primarily carried out by American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

“Yesterday (Saturday) Maulana Sahib met the prime minister and conveyed to him that he must do two things if he wants Taliban on the negotiating table: he must publicly distance his government from the drone attack, which means that strong condemnation must be followed by the threat to downgrade relations with Washington” Jan Muhammad Achakzai told Dawn.com.

“Secondly, he (the PM) must convince the military establishment that the talks with Taliban have to take place,” he further said.

He told Dawn.com that Maulana Fazlur Rehman told the PM that his government’s reaction to drone attacks has to be perceived by the Taliban in tribal areas to be different from the reaction showed by previous PPP-led government towards to drone campaign in tribal areas.

“PPP appeared to be complacent. Once, the then PM Gilani said that his government has no problem with the drone attacks and similarly, Sherry Rehman was also quoted by the media to have said that the government doesn’t have any problem with the drone attacks,” said Jan Muhammad Achakzai.

“Now this government’s reaction has to be different if Taliban has to be brought to the negotiating table,” Achakzai added.

The only problem, which makes the whole situation implausible, is that the JUI-F is not ready to admit that they are in direct contact with the Taliban. At least publicly, they are maintaining the position that they don’t communicate directly with Taliban.

“We don’t have any direct contact with Taliban” said Jan Muhammad Achakzai, the official spokesman of JUI-F.

However, both the serving and retired military officials told Dawn.com that JUI-F’s extensive network in the tribal areas and contact with Taliban ranks is a matter of routine.

In the past, JUI-F has acted as a mediator between Taliban and the Pakistan army in many of the peace agreements that the two signed over the years in tribal areas.

JUI-F's problem is that it cannot openly admit to having direct links with the Taliban, while the militants continue to play havoc in country’s urban areas. At the same time, they cannot appear to be convincing if they take the position that they are not in contact with the Taliban.

“Yet, Maulana Fazlur Rehman is said to have told Nawaz Sharif that in order to look credible in the eyes of Taliban, the government will have to back the protest over drones with the readiness to downgrade its ties with Washington” said a security expert on the condition of anonymity.

Interestingly, the other JUI faction led by Maulana Samiul-Haq maintains the same position that they are not in contact with Taliban. However its spokesman, Maulana Yousaf Shah told Dawn.com that it was not at all difficult for them to contact the Taliban leadership.

“After all they (Taliban) don’t live in Palestine…they live in Waziristan in Miranshah, we can just go and talk to them” said Maulana Yousaf Shah, official spokesman of JUI-S, while talking to Dawn.com.

However, the JUI-F party officials admit that they have an indirect contact with Taliban through intermediaries and it was after talking to these intermediaries that they gathered the impression that the new government must distance itself publicly from the drone attacks if they want to bring Taliban to the negotiating table.

“First of all, let me tell you that Waliur Rehman Mehsud wanted to initiate talks with the government,” said Jan Achakzai.

“Prior to his killing, we were getting positive vibes from the Taliban ranks that they wanted to initiate talks with the government…This suddenly stopped following the drone attacks…now there is a hardening of attitude in Taliban ranks,” Achakzai added.

However, some independent security experts really doubt the ability of these religious parties to effectively influence the behaviour of Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

For instance, security analyst Brigadier (retd) Mahmud Shah told Dawn.com that in the past, the JUI-F leaders have acted as mediators between army and tribal militants.

“But those talks failed primarily because JUI-F men created further misunderstandings in the mediating process than facility the talks” said Brigadier (retd) Mahmud Shah.

“In 2004, talks with the militant commander Nek Mohammad failed primarily because one thing was conveyed to army and a different thing was conveyed to the militant commander, which led to chaotic conditions during the talks,” said Brigadier (retd) Shah, who was the secretary of the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (Fata) then.

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Comments are closed.

Comments (23)

Mateen
June 10, 2013 12:34 pm

If droneattacks come to an end, the Taliban will lose support*** and the war on terror will seem unnecessary so why would the Americans stop droneattacks xD?

akram
June 10, 2013 2:17 pm

we Pakistanis may hate the drones attacks, but there seems with TTP's focus on drones, this is in effect a tacit admission that the drones have caused the militants much pain, therefore they have been somewhat successful in targeting the militants.

faisal
June 10, 2013 2:49 pm

@Mateen: If the drone attacks stop, pigs will fly.

anony
June 10, 2013 7:09 pm

@akram: It seems like you support the drone program. Imagine if your innocent family members become target of collateral damage from a drone strike. Ever thought about that?

asif
June 10, 2013 7:29 pm

Continue the attacks till every terrorist is dead. The program should be expanded to include all bearded mullahs as well, they are all terrorists to be honest.

Em Moosa
June 10, 2013 7:27 pm

Drones are fighting against those devils who have made the life of a common man hell. I call drones real mujahedeen. These cruel and heartless Talibaans who are killing the innocent people in the schools, masajid, bazaars and every where should be eliminated from our society as soon as possible. Muslims all over the world are in trouble because of their self created wrong and misguiding Islamic believes. Unfortunately the young Muslims are mostly effected who personally do not have much knowledge about Islam which is actually the religion of peace and harmony and strictly does not allow these killings which is the way of these animals. But drones are not enough people should also come out and clean up Talibaan's supporters from their neighborhood along with all those so called religious parties who are supporting them day and night as well as leaders of those political parties who are issuing statements and bringing motions in the assemblies against drone attacks just for their political gains. They are only making the illiterate Pakistanis fool. Talibaan are already cornered and they wanted to gain time to stand back on their feet by talking with stupid leaders of Pakistan. The timely killing of their one of the buchers gave our leaders to rethink either it would be suitable to talk these animals ?.

Em Moosa
June 10, 2013 7:29 pm

@Mateen: You should move to Peshawar.

usman Khattak
June 10, 2013 9:43 pm

Drone is the only answer to taliban.

Lakhkar Khan
June 10, 2013 10:04 pm

@asif:

I agree with the first part of your comment. I don't think all bearded mullahs are terrorists. However, they should be condemning these murderers.

Lakhkar Khan
June 10, 2013 10:09 pm

DON'T let mullah near a political office. Mullah has no business in politics.

Lakhkar Khan
June 10, 2013 10:11 pm

@anony:

Many, many families are the "collateral damage" of these mullah terrorists everyday. Maybe you should watch the news and read news papers.

farhan
June 10, 2013 10:37 pm

@anony: A lot of my family and friends have suffered collateral damage from TTP's activity. Why don't you ask them first.

Drone are the only answer to TTP.

Sawat Hasan
June 10, 2013 11:36 pm

Who are they to dictate anyone in Pakistan?????

Qaiser Bakhtiari
June 11, 2013 1:31 am

@anony: Imagine if your innocent family was the target of these militants and their suicide bombs. But then i guess to you its killings are justified if its committed by a "mujahid of Islam" More people have been killed by these taliban then by drones but your focus on drone seems to mirror your mullah's friday prayers speech.

Yawar
June 11, 2013 6:24 am

@asif: Please do not generalize. I am sure most mullahs reject the ways of the Pakistani Taliban. The focus of Pakistan should not be diluted beyond those terrorist groups and criminals that have little regard for life and are ever willing to kill large numbers of Pakistanis without any remorse.

Agha Ata
June 11, 2013 7:28 am

Pakistan governent should do this and the US government should do that, or we punish both of them. WOW! as if they are the sole super power in the world. Are you listening to them folks?

It is high time we should declare their area as sub jail or a lunatic asylum.

Mustafa
June 11, 2013 7:39 am

Beware of Mullahs who are playing double games. They want to be friends of militants and terrorists as well as friends of Pakistan government. Only Allah knows their true intention.

Pakistanis should thank America for eliminating the killers and murderers in Pakistan using drones. Even if a Devil does this job, it is for good cause.

Zia
June 11, 2013 8:34 am

We approve drone attacks on the enemies of humanity and they should continue. USA has the right to protect itself from any possible attack from Pak/Afghan tribal belt. This is the hot bed of extremists who are equally dangerous for Pakistan and other countries of the world. There is no reason to obstruct this regular exercise of bringing down the culprits to justice. Pakistani nation has to realize the perils of extremist out source which has put a stop on their progress and prosperity. Army has rightly observed that the war against extremists is the war of Pakistan and the new Prime Minister should admit this rather than scooping away. The province of his own very birth is ripe with extremists who had helped his election in the hope of getting his sympathies. This is the time to be bold enough like a tiger otherwise you will be castigated by the world. We have to be honest with ourselves and to the nation which has given you the berth to work for another term. Though it will be a bitter pill but you will have to swallow it and I am sure there is good remedy for Pakistan in this policy. Decry them in public and see how people will follow you

Shakeel
June 11, 2013 8:57 am

@Em Moosa: Do.t try to be intellectual.Just shift to peshawar with your family then you would realized that how much KPK has been affected by terrorism.If Drones and Pak army shelling killed civilian and general public in North and south waziristan then definitely the reaction would be in form of suicide attacks. Drones is regarded here in KPK as terrorist producing factory. Do,t support any move which violate your sovereignty and kills your people if you dare to call yourself pakistani.

Shakeel
June 11, 2013 8:59 am

@asif: Your Holy prophets were also bearded.Think before you write some thing.You should ashamed on being pakistani. Think about the innocent people of your country and sovereignty as well.

zobia khan
June 11, 2013 9:25 am

If the drone attack create sympathy for the Taliban or serve to help them than the Taliban should welcome the attacks, and ask for more.

The Taliban hate the drone attacks as it interferes in their operations by taking out their mid and upper level leaders. People who complain about the innocent civilians should also think about the innocent civilians killed by these butchers, and these butchers have been killing innocents for the past 20 years. Drones just came on the scene.

When negotiating one should always negotiate from a position of strength not weakness. If the Taliban don't want to negotiate send in more drones. Let them know the doors to negotiation are open but they have to walk through them.

In the Taliban's mindset they think that since PML made the promise of stopping drones maybe they can get some space if they show an interest in negotiating. It will be a big mistake if the govt negotiates with them and does not get them to disarm. Remember what happened in Swat.

zobia khan
June 11, 2013 9:26 am

@Mateen: Then why are the Talibans asking for the Drones to stop? Your logic does not make any sense.

Iqbal khan
June 11, 2013 3:21 pm

US doing a great job by killing these snakes and innocent people have no business to be with these terrorists and if they were sheltering them they need to die too.

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