NOT many details have emerged from the briefing that was given to the parliamentary committee on national security by the military leadership yesterday. It has been reported though that the update provided information on the situation in Afghanistan and Kashmir and the status of talks between Pakistan and the banned TTP.
It is the latter subject that is of immediate interest, and the fact that Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry’s statement that a ceasefire had been agreed upon between the government and the TTP was broadcast on the same day as the briefing may help connect the dots. He said talks were underway between the two sides in line with the Constitution and the ceasefire may be extended keeping in view the progress of these talks.
It is true that such briefings are useful in bringing the parliamentary leadership into the loop on sensitive national security matters and enabling them to provide input and advice to the government as well as the military high command. However, the negotiations with the TTP, that is responsible for the murder of thousands of Pakistani citizens, still remain shrouded in mystery.
Reports suggest that the Afghan Taliban are playing the role of mediator while the two sides attempt to stitch together some kind of a deal. The unfortunate part is that there has been almost negligible public input in this matter. The government has quietly initiated these talks and brought them to a stage where a ceasefire is now in effect. There have been hints all along the way for sure — from the president, the foreign minister and later the prime minister who chose to reveal on an international channel that talks were ongoing with the TTP. There is, however, no information in terms of what Pakistan has offered in return for this ceasefire, who is on the government’s team, and what concessions are being considered for those who have the blood of Pakistanis on their hands.
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This issue may have been discussed at the briefing on Monday and various parliamentary leaders would have given their suggestions, but it is a bit late to be taking them into confidence when negotiations are already in an advanced stage. This is too grave a matter to be left to unilateral executive decision-making. It is imperative the government bring the details of the negotiations into parliament and allow the representatives to debate the pros and cons of the issue in full glare of the media.
The people of Pakistan are major stakeholders in this debate — having borne the brunt of the TTP’s militancy — and they must have their say in the final decision. The parliamentarians should use the material from this briefing to initiate a debate on the floor of both Houses before any final deal with the TTP is agreed upon. The government must come clean on this issue.
Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2021