ANOTHER attempt to sue for peace with the outlawed TTP is being made, again facilitated by the Afghan Taliban that rule Kabul. According to a spokesman of the Afghan Taliban, there has been “significant progress” in talks between the government and the TTP that took place in Kabul, with the result that the latter has extended a ceasefire till the end of this month.
Moreover, in an apparent goodwill gesture, the state has freed and reportedly pardoned some convicted high-profile militants, including Muslim Khan, once considered the face of the TTP Swat.
However, both the civilian and military authorities in Pakistan remain tight-lipped about these developments. But before the success or otherwise of this nascent peace process is considered, some tough questions need to be answered by the state.
Primarily, the people of Pakistan need to know what the finer points of any agreement with the TTP are. After all, this is a group that has waged war on Pakistan and has been responsible for some of the most atrocious acts of terrorism the country has witnessed, so there is natural concern whether the TTP’s leadership and cadres will be willing to give up the way of the gun. Moreover, is the state willing to simply forgive those whose hands are stained with the blood of our soldiers and civilians — including the children of APS Peshawar — and who remain unrepentant? Also, in order to make peace, how much is the state willing to concede to the militants? Will they swear to respect the law of the land and democratic governance, and renounce violence? The state, therefore, needs to tell the people — preferably through parliament — what exactly the details of the peace process are.
Peace is required, especially in the war-ravaged erstwhile tribal belt, but there must be a difference between peace and capitulation to the demands of the militants. Moreover, it should be remembered that a similar exercise to make peace with the TTP was launched by the previous government last year, which collapsed soon after it began.
While it may bring short-term peace, any agreement that legitimises the TTP without the group surrendering its weapons and promising to respect the Constitution will sow the seeds for major trouble in the future. Also, the state must be clear about how far an amnesty should go.
For example, will those responsible for the deaths of thousands of Pakistanis be ‘forgiven’ with the stroke of a pen? This will surely send the wrong message. The fact is, it will be very difficult to mainstream the TTP considering the nature of the group, and if they are allowed a foothold, the militants will effectively wipe out all other groups that disagree with their ideology. Therefore, more transparency, and plenty of caution, is needed on part of the state regarding peace talks with the TTP.
Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2022