PESHAWAR: The peace negotiation mantra, repeated daily by both the federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments, has not charmed the unforgiving Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.
TTP does not seem impressed with the peace talks offer as its campaign to kill and devastate civilian targets in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Karachi, and elsewhere intensified during the past two weeks.
After the Jan 6 Hangu school suicide bomb attack, the nation was rocked by a powerful car bomb blast in Karachi on Jan 10. Later, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa experienced two attacks on Jan 13, including one in Peshawar and the other in Shangla. The terrorists hit again Peshawar on Jan 16 and the same day Shangla, too, saw an attack. Sunday morning brought the news of an attack on a security forces in Bannu, killing over 20 soldiers and injuring 15 others.
Some might call the latest killing spree a resurgence of attacks after a short lull following the change of command the terrorist outfit experienced as a result of Hakimullah Mehsud’s killing in a US drone attack.
The resurgence argument, however, does not seem correct. There has never been a short lull. If TTP temporarily stops attacking civilian targets for awhile, it continues attacking police and army. While army reacts to TTP attacks in its own operational preferences, the police and civilians continue to wait for the peace mantra to deliver.
After every TTP attack, leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and their men in the federal and provincial governments, respectively, respond with oft-repeated political statements.
They condemn the killings without criticising the killers. They repeat the negotiation offer without putting a clear roadmap for the treacherous path that the negotiation happens to be.
The PML-N led federal government mixes its condemnation with rhetoric to take on the bad guys with full force. The PTI-led provincial government links the killing of innocent people in terrorist attacks to Pakistan’s role in the war on terrorism.
Whether it is the war on terrorism or Pakistan’s own war, the hard and blatant fact is: innocent Pakistanis, civilians, policemen and army personnel are dying. The other fact is: the government — federal and the province — has not even come up with a strategy to put this insane killing spree to an end. People are being reduced to corpses. Human flesh is scattered every other day as a result of mindless barbarity.
In response, the prime minister, one day, asks Maulana Samiul Haq to hold talks with Taliban. On another occasion, he asks Imran Khan, Samiul Haq, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, rather whoever, to lead and talk with TTP.
As a rejoinder, Imran Khan shifts the responsibility of negotiating with Taliban to the federal government. On its part, the army leadership says the terrorists would be dealt with an iron hand. Simultaneously, it says to support the peace path.
Is there anybody to tell the PML-N and PTI: Guys listen, what do you want? If you want to talk, go ahead. What stops you? Your complaints about drones ruining peace prospects do not form people’s problem. It is your problem and you have to find a way out of it after having been elected to power. Stop this nonsensical human killing spree. Stop blaming each other. Implement your election manifestos. You want another all parties conference? Go and hold it? Do whatever you want to do, but do something, please! More than six months after the new government(s) came in the leadership has yet to resolve whether peace is the only option.
Washington is working on its troops’ drawdown from Afghanistan and fine tuning plans for its stay in the post-drawdown Afghanistan. Kabul is trying to extract favours from the US against lending support to its drawdown plans. Afghan Taliban are eying at making a comeback following the drawdown. TTP says it would continue its activities even if the US leaves the region.
Negotiations move forward by first developing trust among the parties to talks. And trust does not happen overnight. It might take years to make others to listen to you. But during this period the ‘others’ just can’t be let loose to continue their killing spree, get strengthened through fearsome activities.
The PML-N and PTI have to put their heads together or work independently to fulfill their election campaign promises: Peace in Pakistan, without which economic progress would be a far cry.