Pakistan is facing a dilemma. If the government does not take stern action against militants, or it procrastinates on initiating a dialogue due to the delaying tactics of the TTP, the latter gets the breathing space and time to reorganize. After being decimated in Swat and Malakand and elsewhere, Pakistani Taliban reorganized and came back with full force. On the other hand, the US feels that the time is running out. If peace is not restored through dialogue, it would face tremendous problems at the time of withdrawal from Afghanistan.
It was perhaps because of frustration or to showcase its credibility that the US took out the head of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Hakimullah Mehsud was killed along with at least six others in a US drone hit on Friday near Miranshah, dealing a major blow to the militant network. “We confirm with great sorrow that our esteemed leader was martyred in a drone attack,” a senior Taliban commander told Reuters. The others killed in the attack included Hakimullah’s deputy Abdullah Behar, his bodyguard Tariq Mehsud, driver Abdullah Mehsud and an uncle, a security source said.
Hakimullah Mehsud was reportedly there to attend a gathering of 25 Taliban leaders to discuss the government’s offer of talks. Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan termed the US drone strike that killed the TTP commander as an attempt to sabotage the government’s plan to hold talks with the TTP.
“The attack has severely damaged expected talks with the Taliban. We condemn it. I am in touch with the prime minister to sort out ways to control the damage,” said Ch. Nisar Ali on Friday night. He also stated that a three-member government team was ready to leave for Waziristan to negotiate with the TTP to strike a peace deal with Taliban.
Last month, Hakimullah Mehsud had told a BBC journalist that he would guarantee the protection of government negotiators in order to start a discreet dialogue rather than trying to negotiate through the media. One does not understand that after the government had taken the position that talks would not be held in FATA, then how the Interior Minister could say that a three-member team was to leave for Waziristan to meet the TTP leadership.
Secondly, the TTP had categorically stated that no talks could be initiated unless drone attacks are completely stopped. TTP on its part was neither prepared to announce a ceasefire nor to agree to holding talks under the Constitution of Pakistan. After attack on the Church in Peshawar, Hakimullah Mehsud had said that TTP or its affiliated group was not involved in attack on the Church, and at the same time he had justified the attack by saying it was in accordance with dictates of sharea. He should realize that according to Islamic injunctions Islamic or Muslim state is supposed to protect the life and property of the minorities.
As regards drone attacks, Pakistan has long been opposing them and considered as a violation if its territorial integrity. Pakistani Taliban were also demanding of the government to get the US drone strikes stopped before talks can start. Despite these statements, the government spokesman has been telling the nation that indirect talks are being held.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Thursday that the “process of dialogue” had started, and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said “structured, formal” talks with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants would soon be initiated. But Shahidullah Shahid, the main spokesman for the TTP told news agency AFP on Friday that “there had been no overtures. No one has yet contacted us”. Last month, the TTP had issued a list of preconditions including the release of all its members held in Pakistani jails and the withdrawal of troops from the tribal areas along the Afghan border, where the militants have hideouts.
On Friday, before the drone attack that killed Hakimullah Mehsud, TTP spokesman had reiterated these demands and said the government must fulfill them to prove they are serious about talks. As the TTP militants continued their attacks on military and civilians, yet some political and religious parties have been pressurizing the government that it should enter into dialogue with the militants.
The TTP’s spokesman is on record having said that the TTP never made an offer for talks. The TTP seems to be changing goalposts, and also try to create confusion by denying its involvement in one incident while owning the other.
However, All Parties Conference had passed a resolution that dialogue with the militants was the first option to bring peace to the country. Despite that overture, Major General Sanaullah Niazi, Lt. Col. Tauseef and soldier Irfan were killed in a roadside bomb attack in Upper Dir district after they were returning from visiting forward posts along the Afghan border.
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan had claimed the responsibility for the attack. After killing 40000 innocent citizens in suicide attacks, through IEDs and bombings, and having martyred 5000 army personnel and disabled in equal numbers, TTP militants should think what service they have done to the country and Islam.
Some political and religious figures often justify militants’ vile activities on grounds patently spurious. It is now for the civilian and military leadership to think out a strategy, which indeed they should have done long time ago, but apparently have not done so far. Extremism has indeed become the biggest internal threat to the country; rather it has turned into a dreadful threat to its very existence.
The perpetrators of terrorism are laying claims to religious motivation, albeit very dubiously. The way they destroyed schools, shrines and attacked mosques and worshippers knocks the bottom of their pretense of being practicing Muslims.
The sophisticated weaponry militants possess and use; the fighting expertise they display and unlimited funds they have go to prove that they are not religiously motivated but the proxies of certain alien powers. Unfortunately, our past and present governments have been hesitant to name the countries that support the militants. They should start telling the truth.