PESHAWAR: It takes five hours to reach Miramshah in North Waziristan Agency from Peshawar on a pleasant day with normal traffic flow on the Indus Highway and few-to-no stops at the security checkposts.
Professor Ibrahim, provincial president of Jamaat-i-Islami, a peace negotiator of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, knows it well being a regular traveler on the Indus Highway.
Hailing from Bannu, a southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa district adjacent to North Waziristan, the professor frequently travels between Peshawar and his home district and never uses helicopter for travelling.
The other respectable TTP negotiator, Maulana Yousuf Shah, too, never uses choppers for travelling from one central Khyber Pakhtunkhwa city to another. Since he is a political figure in his own right being some handpicked office-bearer of Maulana Samiul Haq’s Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, one can imagine the time he spends on the roads, travelling.
One wonders when the two gentlemen are frequent road users then why to fly them in helicopters to Miramshah to meet the TTP bosses?
Saving time could be the reason. They are on a national duty. They need ease of travelling.
Flying them in military choppers saves about eight hours: four hours from one side if one takes the flight time to be one hour from each side. Since they are not using the national flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines, which does not have a very good reputation of arriving and departing on time, and therefore, one can be sure that their flight leaves at time and gets back in time as well. So one hour would be safe to estimate.
But if they can spend 27 hours with the TTP commanders to bring nothing substantial, then why can’t they take the plunge to spend eight more hours to go by road?
After all, they are on a national When faster peace talks are imperative, Skype is the option duty.
Substantial from TTP would have been an effective ceasefire, which it cannot guarantee. Why then peace negotiations with TTP only? Why not to find the ‘third force’, that in Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s parlance is set to sabotage the talks, and bring it in the talking loop as well to make the process meaningful.
Leave aside everything for now. Let’s focus on the financial costs of the talks, because money matters in everything.
The country needs peace because it has to prosper and ensure economic well being of its people.
So, if Professor Ibrahim-Maulana Shah’s round trip is costing Rs500,000 (fuel/flight operations/crew costs/boarding and lodging/man hours) to the national exchequer, is it worth spending the money on something that can be done by spending the maximum Rs 50,000 or even less?
Don’t forget: they never use choppers for personal travelling, so if they are possessed by the spirit to deliver a peace to the nation then they would definitely understand that the nation also needs to save money.
The armed forces are already asking for increase in the defence budget as they have to make some essential purchases. Unless the leaders save money, the funds required for meeting the additional defence requirements would be difficult to meet.
Apart from being expensive, flying them in the state’s choppers is a bit too risky, putting in danger the servicemen flying the expensive metal birds. It is also not safe for the two leaders to fly so openly in the military choppers. Tomorrow if they fail to deliver anything to the TTP, they might be in trouble!
It’s not safe for the crew because TTP cannot ensure its being in full command of all the militant groups fighting the State. The Friday attack in Peshawar is the latest reference to explain the TTP’s inability to make its announced ceasefire even a limping success.
So, God forbidding, if any rogue TTP-group acts against the chopper with the two leaders on board…what would happen? It should be left to everybody’s imagination to think about the consequences.
But such an eventuality cannot be scrapped from being an unpleasant possibility. The presence of rogue groups within TTP, yes rogue groups within a rouge organization can also happen, cannot be ignored. Again the Friday’s attacks should enable to understand the elements opposed to the TTP. There is somebody out there that does not want TTP to live a peaceful life!
If saving time is the reason to fly the TTP negotiators to Miramshah, some other options are out there, which can ensure much faster communication to take the talks forward on a bullet’s speed.
Why not rely on Skype. Yes, Skype!
Awami National Party used it during its election campaign in the May election and remained quite successful. Its leaders managed to protect themselves from the TTP ‘suicide brigade’.
If ANP failed to win the people’s sympathies despite using Skype, it was not because of the network problem. They were haunted by their inability to see the writing on the wall: they were no more required.
Skype provides an instant, faster, and effective communication option.
What? TTP bosses are hiding in a remote area from where internet might not be available.
Not really! TTP’s media kids, including Shahidullah Shahid and Ehsanullah Ehsan, are computer literate and know how to use internet, too. Their media battalion has been uploading on different websites the videos of the TTP ‘soccer brigade’ playing football with human heads.
Getting connected through Skype won’t be a problem for Shahidullah Shahid and Ehsanullah Ehsan.
Imagine, TTP Central Shura chatting with its interlocutors through Skype. Wouldn’t it be another world record? Peace negotiations to tame a portal of the World Wide Web of militants!