When the whole nation was geared up to brace military action against the Taliban, to the surprise of many, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the National Assembly announced that his government would give peace yet another chance by holding talks with the notorious insurgents.
If the decision of forming a four-member team to negotiate with the Taliban was a complete surprise, more surprising was the fact that the decision came without details. No deadlines were given, and no specifics were revealed about the mandate of the committee.
It was astonishing indeed considering the developments over the last few months in which hundreds of innocent civilians, including women and children, died in terrorist acts blatantly claimed by the TTP.
Besides causing countless civilian casualties, the militants have been causing havoc for the country’s military as well, attacking some of their key installations and check posts.
Except for a few extreme right religious parties, including the Jamaat-i-Islami and both the factions – Fazlur Rehman and Samiul Haq – of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, the rest of the country was finally on the same page, demanding that the Nawaz Sharif government launch the decisive operation.
Even Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan – known for his pro-talks/anti-US drone stance – had shown signs of cognisance when he assured his support to Interior Minster Chaudhry Nisar behind the operation in the troubled tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
So despite an across the board consensus evolving for a definitive military offensive against the Taliban, why did the prime minister opt for talks again?
After being dethroned twice from power, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has evolved into a seasoned statesman who, along with former president Asif Ali Zardari and ex-premier Benazir Bhutto, has been following the guidelines set in the historic Charter of Democracy, signed back in 2007.
It is evident from the conduct of the current PML-N and previous PPP governments that in a bid to strengthen a democratic system which is still weak the two major political forces in Pakistan are not pulling one another’s legs anymore.
We are lucky to be a part of an era in which democracy is finally getting its roots entrenched. Pakistanis have witnessed the first ever democratic transition of power from one civilian government to another and one democratically-elected president to another.
After being governed by military dictators for most of its history, finally national institutions in Pakistan are being revamped; the Parliament is becoming sovereign; provinces are autonomous; we have a somewhat free judiciary, a vibrant media along with a military dictator facing treason charges in a civilian court of law.
All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the foresightedness that the country’s political leaders showed during General Pervez Musharraf’s regime.
Coming back to the question posed earlier, in my opinion, military action against those who do not accept the state’s writ is not just inevitable, but also possible without provoking certain elements quite capable of taking advantage of the situation.
Mr Sharif’s government needs to take every step with extreme caution, which I must say it has been doing by quietly isolating the pro-Taliban and pro-al Qaeda voices.
In fact, we have a prime minister who is giving new meaning to the term; keeping one’s cards close to one’s chest.