TTP and a national tragedy

Published November 12, 2021

WHEN the Supreme Court summoned Prime Minister Imran Khan to appear before the bench, it brought back focus on the Army Public School tragedy in which members of the terrorist outfit TTP massacred more than 130 schoolchildren in 2014.

The parents of the slain students were present in the courtroom when the prime minister stood on the rostrum to explain how those responsible for the attack had been arrested and punished for their crime. However, the TTP has yet to show any remorse for the APS massacre even as the government is now engaged in talks with the terrorist organisation.

There is something disconcerting about the government rushing into a possible peace deal with the TTP when there is little to suggest that the terrorist outfit is ready and willing to relinquish its violent ways. Tragedies like the APS massacre may be a few years behind us, as are other similar acts of grotesque violence, but this should not mean that we forgive and forget those who have the blood of thousands of Pakistanis on their hands.

Little is known about the terms on which these negotiations with the TTP are underway. The statements emanating from the TTP do not appear to suggest they are negotiating from a position of weakness. A month-long ceasefire has been announced but the TTP is reported to have said it will reconsider the ceasefire after a month. The government has briefed the parliamentary leadership on the broad contours of the negotiations but no details are available in the public domain.

Read: Ambiguity around terms of negotiations has made TTP talks extremely controversial

More is riding on negotiations than just the government’s desire to strike a deal with the terrorist group. It makes little sense to sound desperate for a deal when the terrorists remain defiant. Pakistan has been successful these last few years in significantly degrading the terrorist threat from the TTP and uprooting and destroying their infrastructure on Pakistani soil, forcing the militants to take refuge in Afghanistan. The military’s kinetic operations have delivered results and the nation has stood fully behind this counterterrorism success. Given this track record, it is a bit perplexing why the government would want to rush into a deal unless the TTP agrees to the conditions set by Pakistan.

One of these conditions must include an admission of guilt and remorse by the TTP for murdering Pakistani men, women and children and wreaking carnage across the country. This is why it is necessary that the terms of the deal should be brought to parliament so that representatives of the public can debate and dissect them threadbare before deciding if they should be agreed upon or rejected as being too soft on the terrorist outfit. Complete transparency in this matter is essential to retain public confidence that the government is not bartering away the blood of its citizens for a deal that is not worth it.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2021

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