RECENT statements by two major political leaders have underlined the perception that there is no political agreement on tackling resurgent terrorism. On the one hand, former prime minister Imran Khan — in whose tenure ‘peace talks’ were initiated with outfits operating from Afghanistan — has argued that the banned TTP were ‘driven’ to their old ways because Islamabad failed to live up to the promises made to them; on the other, incumbent Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has roundly criticised the PTI’s policy towards the TTP as mere ‘appeasement’. With so much confusion within our ranks, it is hardly surprising that the TTP has been able to exploit the situation to its advantage. It now threatens to start another violent chapter in Pakistan’s war against militancy.
It must be said that Mr Khan’s accommodating view of the TTP is starkly at odds with how the terrorist outfit sees Pakistan. The group has little respect or consideration for the Pakistani state or its sovereignty, which is reflected in its demand for the reversal of Fata’s merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The TTP had made decoupling Fata a non-negotiable condition in its aforementioned ‘peace talks’ with the Pakistani state, presuming to dictate to Islamabad the limits of its dominion. After the talks broke down, the TTP’s brutal attacks targeting Pakistani security forces and law-enforcement personnel only hammered home its disdain for the same land where it was being ‘settled’ despite locals’ loud and angry protests. But even Mr Bhutto-Zardari, who has taken a tougher line on the TTP, has appeared softer on the Afghan Taliban even though Kabul is seen to be quietly patronising the TTP. Instead of taking a harder stance against the Afghan Taliban for failing to rein in the terrorists operating from their territory, the foreign minister wants to continue engaging with them. These conflicting messages are complicating Pakistan’s response to its gravest existential crisis. Clearly, this is another area which desperately needs political consensus.
Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2023
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