Originally Published 2013-09-20 04:34:23 Published on Sep 20, 2013
The Nawaz Sharif government's offer of the olive branch to TTP seems more like an act of desperation than a serious attempt to bring about stability in the country. As the previous deals with militants have shown, the outcomes have favoured militants more than the governments.
Talking to Pakistan Taliban: Will it work?
"The recent decision of the Nawaz Sharif government to negotiate with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), endorsed by an All Party Conference and the powerful Pakistan Army, has little chance of success given the prevailing circumstances.

Nawaz Sharif, before he became the Prime Minister for the third time in June this year, was averse to any peace talks with TTP which has been targeting the security forces, including the army and ISI, since December 2007. His government's counter-terrorism policy also spoke about rooting out terrorist strongholds. But the Prime Minister, within 100 days of his administration, changed his mind and offered peace talks to TTP, knowing well that previous attempts to counter or contain the militant group, either with military means or negotiations, have been disastrous.

What has compelled this change? Sharif wanted the army to take the initiative and contain TTP and its attacks. But the army has not been too keen on a full frontal military offensive. Previous such ventures, during General Musharraf's regime, resulted in large troop casualties and an ignominious retreat. General Kayani's own attempts to clear, hold and build Swat, which TTP had over-run in 2007, have only been partially successful. In fact, it took two no-holds barred military operations stretched over a period of two years to bring Swat under control. The army had to pay a heavy cost both in terms of lives lost and resources expended in the operations.

The army is not sure whether it wants to repeat Swat. North Waziristan, where TTP leadership and cadres are based, is not Swat by any stretch of imagination; it is a far more rugged and treacherous terrain where the tribesmen have a greater operational advantage. The army has every chance of getting trapped in the valleys and mountain passes controlled by different tribes.

Moreover, Kayani is at the fag end of his career; he is due to retire by November end this year and therefore is shy of taking on a challenge like TTP which can prove to be a disaster. He would rather have his successor take the responsibility. His best option would therefore to buy time till November. His refusal to be provoked despite the killing of a Major General in Dir is a clear indication of his anxiety.

On the other hand, TTP's agenda is clear and has been articulated time and again-it wants thePakistan Army to stop its military operations in the tribal areas, withdraw its troops and stop helping the US. TTP leadership is also miffed at the previous military operations against them which killed hundreds of Pashtun tribes people for over a decade now. The recent targeted killing of one of their senior leaders, Wali-ur Rahman, by a US Drone and Pakistan Army's muscular offensive against the group in Tirah Valley early this year were two immediate reasons for the TTP anger.

The TTP's killing of a Major General in the midst of a flurry of activities in Islamabad clearing the table for a negotiation is a clear message to the military and civilian leadership: negotiations are not enough to end the killings. The group wants the government to accept all its demands before calling a ceasefire.

These developments have made it less likely for talks to even take place, let alone succeed. A widespread belief is that if the establishment were to give in to these demands, and not respond strongly to the killing of the Major General, it would amount to surrender which would have serious consequences to Pakistan's security.

Given the ground situation, the government's offer of the olive branch to TTP seems more like an act of desperation than a serious attempt to bring about stability in the country. As the previous deals with militants in the tribal areas and elsewhere have shown, the outcomes have favoured militants more than the governments, leaving the country more vulnerable to terrorist offensive.

For instance, the Shakai Agreement (2004) and the Miranshah Peace Accord (2006) involved payment of heavy compensation and even more blood money to the militants by the government. Most of the money went towards strengthening militant networks in the area. Other deals like the Sararogha Peace Deal (2005) were ambiguous and did not call for the militants to surrender their weapons or stop attacks in Afghanistan. All the deals conceded too much to the militants and demanded too little of them.

Moreover, the short peace that existed immediately after negotiations was usually used by the militant groups to recuperate and progress to greater strengths. Thus, negotiations with militant groups in the past have proved to be counterproductive in the long run.

(Taruni Kumar is a Research Intern with Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

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