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-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro
-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro
Shame on those who think talks between Islamabad and the TTP are a bad idea.

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: [Trying to make small talk] So, read any good European philosophy lately? Subcontinental colonial histories? Biographies of Bertrand Russell?

TTP: [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TTP: Have you freed our prisoners, withdrawn every soldier from the tribal belt, and essentially afforded us the opportunity to intensify our insurgency to the point that we now pose an existential threat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.]

GOP: Have you lost more followers this week? That’s been happening to us lately as well. Mention “One Pound Fish” or “Eye to Eye.” That will help recoup your losses. Guaranteed.

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.]

Author Image

Michael Kugelman is deputy director of the Asia Program and senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. He can be reached at or on Twitter @michaelkugelman

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (58) Closed

Sonal Sep 20, 2013 02:31pm


I've often wondered what talks with the Taliban will look like, what they will ultimately accomplish, and if there will ever be a world where these militants have given up their weapons and activities in exchange for a "satisfactory talk". Your words have helped concretize my imagination.

ordinary_citizen Sep 20, 2013 02:37pm

Unfortunately, this piece does not sound too far away from reality. Everyone (journalists, civil society, analysts etc) emphasize that the state should approach this dialogue from a position of but it does not seem to be the case. God help Pakistan and the weak will of its leadership.

Mohammad Sep 20, 2013 02:42pm

For atleast once dawn has something useful and actually shows reality.

ZAHID Sep 20, 2013 02:48pm

very nice. i love it.

Usman Sep 20, 2013 02:56pm

Well done Michael, you are spot on. The last punch line of drone and PTI was great. Lolz

Syed Nabeel Ahmed Sep 20, 2013 03:05pm


RS Sep 20, 2013 03:18pm

Good one...real good. I hope people are able to see facts through fiction.

Immad Sep 20, 2013 03:21pm

Hahaha very nice. Something very similar to this is in government's mind. Thats why even the murder of a general, exploded schools and murdered innocent Pakistanis are unable to make government understand the true motives of TTP, destruction of Pakistan at any cost.

Rock Sep 20, 2013 04:01pm


Khalid Sep 20, 2013 04:10pm

Michael, Interesting read. This is exactly the problem.

Eddied Sep 20, 2013 04:27pm

Very well written...congrats to the author...

adnan Sep 20, 2013 04:58pm

The TTP are a bunch of terrorists, are we going to let them off the hook for killing thousands of innocent people, is that the resolve of the GOP, is this what our overrated army is capable of, is that it? We thought our army and the GOP were capable of handling a country of 200 million people, now it appears that they are not even capable of handling a bunch of small-time murderers. These terrorists must be killed, every one of them, imagine after a peace deal these mass murderers are walking freely in your cities, in your streets, in front of your house. Have we forgot the magnificent decision of the GOP to hand over Swat to these psychopaths a few years ago? Do we want to do that again? The only way to get rid of this menace is to kill them all, there must not be any talks! We must not bow down and hold 200 million people hostage to a few 100 petty criminals with side arms.

Mamataz Sep 20, 2013 04:56pm

A good attempt at humor. The main issue is that there is a groundswell of support for getting closer to the original ideology of Pakistan. This article somehow overlooks that important point, so this lacks substance...

G.A. Sep 20, 2013 04:58pm

You stopped at 'Ta Ta'. You missed the part where they behead all the GOP reps and pose for trophy shots for apologetic TV anchors.

Imran Sep 20, 2013 05:13pm

Good one Mike! Felt a bit like NFP piece when reading it but that's mostly a good thing... Kudos!

Abdus Salam Khan Sep 20, 2013 05:33pm

This is no time for satire, Michael At the moment we have been outwitted by the Taliban, for we have no special force equipped for dealing with such an insurgency. Our conventional army, trained to fight a set-piece battle on the frontiers, is in no mood to get embroiled in Waziristan, especially after seeing what happened to Nato forces in Afghanistan. The police and rangers may well catch a few thieves and pickpockets in Karachi, but they are not equipped to fight an urban insurgency. Unless we wake up and resolve to get rid of this cancer, the very existence of Pakistan is at stake.

Farooque Sep 20, 2013 05:35pm

This is hilarious.

joe Sep 20, 2013 05:49pm

The TTP are war mongrels, uneducated, full of hatred, no knowledge of religion, culture, or anything. You want to talk to TTP? Well go ahead, but remember a snake will always be a snake. What Pakistan needs is powerful law and order, crush these thugs spread higher education, sponsor sports and tourism, create an environment for jobs and the economy, create more provinces, build infrastructure, tighten security, etc. Enough of these aimless talks between two parties whose ideas are totally different for humanity, education, equality among men/women and peace.

joe Sep 20, 2013 05:55pm

@Abdus Salam Khan: very well said Mr. Khan. these would be aimless talks with TTP. just useless. these TTP spreading their version of Islam by Force which is Not acceptable anywhere in the world.

Sonal Sep 20, 2013 06:04pm

@Abdus Salam Khan:

Isn't that precisely the point. Talks are going to take Pakistan nowhere, except perhaps buy some time. Hardcore action is required, so it's probably best to invest time in that, rather than in talks.

Ali Ahmad Sep 20, 2013 06:07pm


Palvasha von Hassell Sep 20, 2013 06:07pm

What a scream! Delightfully wicked .

bangash Sep 20, 2013 07:28pm

funny and scarily accurate at same time.

DrTK Sep 20, 2013 08:04pm

I think the TTP must find the offer of talks by the GOP hilarious. They all might die of laughing. Is the GOP trying to kill 'em with their humor?? They certainly don't have anything else to offer. Like competence. Or good Governance....

Al Fatmi Sep 20, 2013 08:39pm

Absolutely Brilliant.....and am afraid.....this is where this nation is heading

Imran A. Sep 20, 2013 08:37pm

It's funny how a foreigner clearly understands the problem while us Pakistani's are still not convinced to the highest level of GOP if the Taliban are our and Islam's enemy.

bilal Sep 20, 2013 09:44pm

Loved it. PTI thing is awesome :)

pathanoo Sep 20, 2013 10:15pm

Another NFP in the making, Eh! Michael. Brilliant, Gutsy, Humorous and as close to truth as one can get with these murdering thugs of TTP. I have never understood how can you negotiate with some one who ONLY exists to kill you and has taken the oath to do so. Negotiate for a slow mercy killing NOT a brutal one.....that is what the negotiation will be all about. Makes one wonder who is more stupid - TTP or the coward Pakistani Politicians?

Prapur Sep 20, 2013 10:39pm

Today's news read: Taliban leader Baradar will be released.

Mirza Sep 20, 2013 11:02pm

Very well put. This is exactly what will happen. I fail to understand what are they going to negotiate ?. this is not about foreign occupation like in Afghanistan or Kashmir. this is about a group of people who want to impose their agenda on a democratic government. whether it is sharia or anything else is immaterial.

Nazim Sep 20, 2013 11:44pm

This is the picture to come out at the end of talks. GOP much more bruised. An eye opener.

Siraj Khan Sep 21, 2013 12:10am

Majority of the people here are clapping for the white blogger, I wonder what would be the case if the blogger was dark-skinned. It just shows that even after more than half a century of independence we remain slaves of western-imperialism, shame.

Al Fatmi Sep 21, 2013 12:50am

Brilliant......and am afraid , this is the way the cookie is crumbling

Sadiq Amin Sep 21, 2013 01:36am

What a brilliant piece of satire. BTW, how can you tell the future? I'm looking forward to about a series; now that would be something.

Parvez Sep 21, 2013 02:15am

How did you miss an important point : Every time the TTP guy went outside and blew up someone or something he also used his high-tech cell phone to call abroad, spoke in Arabic, laughed and then came back again to negociate.

Irfan Baloch Sep 21, 2013 02:22am

Well I guess the drone operators (Anerican government) and the talebs have one thing in common. Killing babies and terrorizing people.

Thoughtful Sep 21, 2013 03:25am

Excellent! Was Imran Khan the GOP negotiator?

Taliban Khan Sep 21, 2013 04:36am

Sad, but hilarious, but true. The same situation is happening in Pakistan in the real time, just in a longer timeline. Talks with TTP and the APC.

Khan Sep 21, 2013 09:18am

You know seeing those blogs of other authors on Dawn, for a moment i though i should get my own newspaper and not allow any blogs but seeing this i would say is the best I have ever read.

Aksh Sep 21, 2013 09:53am

@Mamataz: Brilliant satire.

malik Sep 21, 2013 10:19am

Yea I thought in the end TTP just going to explode. Maybe you thought about it too but decided to give it a happy ending.

Imtiaz Hydari Sep 21, 2013 12:38pm

Frankly I find the article very insensitive on a highly important situation. This is no time to poke fun or make jokes. Regardless of what the TTP says a process of dialogue is a must to end the senseless violence. We must have faith backed by determination to find a peaceful end to the ideology of hatred and violence. There is no question that any agreement will be strictly within the constitutional framework of Pakistan. We have no choice but to trust our elected representatives to make honorable peace. However, if diplomacy and sincere efforts fail to deliver peace, the option of force will surely be justified. I would have first gone after the perpetrators of sectarian violence and smashed them to set an example of state power before entering into discussions with the TTP

aligilani Sep 21, 2013 01:09pm

It amazes me that people like this author find it funny that all these people are being killed day in and day out

A.Vetta Sep 21, 2013 01:19pm

It is disappointing that the author and many commentators do not appreciate the reason for the Pak Army and government

Hamza A. Khan Sep 21, 2013 01:23pm

Well you don't really sit down and talk with an organization whose aim is to destroy your country; you kill them! Talks are only successful when you have a sensible party on the other side. Plus the crimes they have committed for so long in the name of Islam against Pakistan and the very image of our beloved country and not to mention our religion is just beyond ignorance and compromise. Such elements have no place and right to exist if peace and progress is to be achieved.

Farooq Ali Sep 21, 2013 04:04pm

Excellent Writing Let me add something

EPILOGUE At the end of talk the TTP removes its cover and exposes itself a person shivering with fear comes out and says I wonder why you are afraid of me a nation so big so strong with remarkable history why not you arrest me and try for treason. The curtain falls.

zafarov Sep 21, 2013 05:02pm

@Mamataz: The original 'ideology of Pakistan!?'. The term "Pakistan ideology" or (Nazriah-e-Pakistan

MichaelKugelman Sep 21, 2013 07:34pm

Thanks, all, for the kind words. I sympathize with those who say it's not the right time or place for satire. My response is that by resorting to satire, perhaps we can better understand the absurdity of the whole situation. But indeed when it comes down to it, this is a very serious matter indeed.

GM Sep 21, 2013 08:45pm

@aligilani: I think you failed to understand the point.

salim Sep 21, 2013 09:16pm

@Farooq Ali : remarkable history?

Fara Sep 21, 2013 10:23pm

@aligilani: And it amazes me more than you that people like and and most of the Pakistanis like Taliban , Qadri, Afia and despise Malala.

bling bling uk Sep 22, 2013 02:32am

@Imtiaz Hydari: Justifying appeasement will only serve to hasten the demise of the Pakistani state. But Pakistanis seems to be the only ones who cannot see it. But then again can you expect any less. Pakistan never fails to take the path of least resistance. I can only surmise that stupidity has now become part of the national psyche. I suspect the western predictions of the break up of Pakistan in the next 25 years will sadly come true simply because of the lack of will on the part of the Government, Army, and population. You all share a role in the destruction of your country. I pity Pakistan and its people.

bling bling uk Sep 22, 2013 02:38am

@Abdus Salam Khan: Maybe you should ask India I hear their very good at counter insurgency operations, you might learn a thing or two lol

bling bling uk Sep 22, 2013 02:38am

@aligilani: Well you did give them the space to grow in to the terrorists they are today and now you want to cry? Its hilarious, I for one am glad rather you then me but then again I live in a civilised country what's your excuse? Lol

bling bling uk Sep 22, 2013 02:47am

@adnan: Prediction: Pakistan will let the ttp off the hook, can't be live I have to be the one to tell you this sorry dude. You better start saving your money so you can get out when the country goes down the tubes alternatively you could embrace the peace loving version of Islam your leaders have cultivated over the last sixty years lol. After all weren't the ttp educated in the same schools as other Pakistanis? Your chip off the old Taliban block dude you all are just admit it. Commenting in minority paper won't save Pakistan but does provide a lot entertainment for the rest of the English speaking world.

Khan Sep 22, 2013 12:42pm

This is just beautiful... reading all those previous blogs on Dawn was just a waste of time. I was thinking that Dawn should just remove the blog section but after this I would suggest Dawn should have a separate section for you Michael.

Mohammad Sep 22, 2013 12:50pm

Wow lovely!!! can we have a part 2 of this... !!! anyways will be waiting for more ...

Nony Sep 22, 2013 03:01pm

US drones -----> Pakistan <-----TTP attacks, and McDonald's introduces Mc-blast