On the contrary, it’s the perfect time for a thoughtful exchange between uncompromisingly brutal fighters and the government they aim to annihilate.
Here’s what we could expect.
Imagine a hidden, bucolic venue — perhaps nestled in the Tirah or Swat valley, or ensconced on the rugged mountains of Waziristan. The two negotiating parties — the government of Pakistan (GOP) and the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) — enter a meeting room.
GOP team: [Silence.]
TTP team: [Silence.]
GOP: How about we take a break? Some fresh air would be nice.
TTP: Good idea. While you do that, we’ll take the opportunity to launch an attack. See you in five minutes. [Both negotiating teams step outside. TTP representatives disappear].
[Explosions are heard in the distance].
[Five minutes later, both teams reconvene].
GOP: Let’s get down to business. Negotiating gurus emphasise the importance of “getting to yes.” So how shall we proceed to —
TTP: Have you freed our prisoners, withdrawn every soldier from the tribal belt, and essentially afforded us the opportunity to intensify our insurgency to the point that we now pose an existential threat to the Pakistani state?
GOP: Sorry, not yet. We had hoped instead that you would settle for accepting the ambassadorship position in Washington. That’s why it has remained vacant for so long.
TTP: The possibility of relocating closer to our purported patron is tempting, but we’d rather keep our eyes on the immediate prize. To wit: The destruction of the Pakistani state.
GOP: Yes … let’s talk about that; we were hoping you might be willing to make some concessions on that point. Could we negotiate the parameters of that goal?
TTP: What do you mean exactly?
GOP: Well, could you agree to destroy the state several decades from now — or even a century or two from now? We’d prefer a long-term rather than short-term timeframe. And could you agree not to destroy Punjab? This would all be much appreciated.
TTP: You make strong demands. We’d like to take a break and think it over. You go puff on your peace pipe; we’ll go blow up a girls’ school.
[Both teams step outside. The TTP team disappears briefly. Explosions are heard in the distance.]
[Both teams return.]
TTP: We’ve considered your audacious offer. Fortunately for you, we are responsible stakeholders. Here’s what we propose: In lieu of our earlier demand to obliterate the state, we now ask instead that you cede to us all of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. We anticipate provincial authorities there will not object.
GOP: Excellent. And you will, of course, disarm?
TTP: [Breaks into loud, uncontrollable laughter.] But of course. [Guffaws repeatedly.] But of course.
GOP: Good to hear. And as added sweeteners for this deal, we’re happy to make available free laptops, a fleet of buses, and perhaps a new superhighway to allow you to compensate for the absence of arms.
TTP: That’s kind. But as responsible stakeholders negotiating Pakistan’s future, we don’t wish to accept bribes. Haven’t you heard of the great British jurist Sir Edward Coke? “Though the bribe be small, yet the fault be great,” he once declared. [Smiles]. It never hurts to name-drop. It makes the decadent West think we’re sophisticated.
GOP: Fair enough. So, have we gotten to yes?
TTP: Yes. Let’s take one more break before we issue a joint statement for the press. There’s one more attack we’d like to launch.
GOP: Actually, we’ll stay here and wait for you.
TTP: In that case, we’ll stay here as well. Our weaponry is sufficiently state-of-the-art that we can easily detonate our explosives remotely.
[Explosions heard in the distance.]
GOP: Let’s wrap up this process. We have other important business to attend to, once we remember what it is.
TTP: We also have other important business to attend to, and we know exactly what it is. Indeed, let’s wrap up.
[Explosions heard further in the distance.]
TTP: [Looking furious.] We did not order that explosion. Could it be —
[Frantically checks Twitter timeline.]
TTP: No, something more significant has happened. Our timelime has just lit up with 456,323 furious tweets, all posted by users with Imran Khan avatars.
GOP: [Cringes.] We know what that means.
TTP: Yes. [Glowering with rage.] It means there’s been another drone strike.
GOP: Oh, that’s dreadful. But we can overlook it, no?
TTP: Absolutely not. These talks are off. [Stands up abruptly.] Ta ta.
[TTP team storms out of room.]
Michael Kugelman is the senior program associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MichaelKugelman.
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