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Pak-Taliban Peace Talks: RHETORIC OR REALITY, By Prof. Arvind Kumar, 5 Feb, 2014 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 5 February 2014

Pak-Taliban Peace Talks


By Prof. Arvind Kumar

                        Dept. of Geopolitics and International Relations, Manipal University


Pakistan recently initiated peace talks with Taliban mainly to send a symbolic message to the rest of the world that they are interested in peace-building though negotiation. However, the reality suggests that there exists a number of contradictions especially in terms of identifying the convergences of views between the Pakistan Government and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Undeniably, the push for peace talks from Islamabad does not augur well with their intentions and fundamental goals. There seems to be a lack of consistency between rhetoric and action. Needless to say, Pakistan has become a victim of its own State’s policies.

Can a peace dialogue end the terrorism, remains a significant question for analysis and debate before the academic and strategic community?

Pertinently, the Pakistan Government and the banned Taliban established a committee formally to discuss and deliberate on the modalities for peace. But, the right wing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F distanced itself from participating in the negotiation and the peace process.

The committee consists of a member from the TTP and senior journalist Irfan Siddiqui. The TTP proposed that the committee should comprise Samiul-Haq known as the father of Taliban, Chief of Tehrik-e-Insaaf Imran Khan and Lal Masjid Cleric Abdul Aziz. Alongside, it proposed that the panel should have the membership from the Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mohammad Ibrahim.

This seems to be a perilous situation emerging because of the lack of consensus among the various constituents of TTP. Wherein, the suggested members were not agreeing to forge a common ground.

Besides, the four member committee appointed by the Government comprises senior journalists Irfan Siddiqui and Rahimullah Yusuf Zai, former ISI official Major Mohammad Amir and ex-Ambassador Rustam Shah Mohmand. The panel’s objective was to bring in the perspective from the Pakistani media, diplomatic community and intelligence agencies.

Hence, the constituent of the four-member committee was mainly to elicit the views on the ongoing challenges emanating from Taliban and then form a common ground for the solution to end the terrorism.

Further, the commitment shown by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to overcome terrorism through dialogue can only be reflected in evolving certain understanding on the complex process of negotiation with the Taliban.

Notably, the expectation of the international community in general and Pakistan in particular from the functioning of such committee from both sides (the Pakistan Government and TTP) has been to move forward in a positive direction and intensify the overall peace process.

Consequently, the Government’s role would be paramount and significant because such dialogue would help in eliciting the responses and the viewpoints from the TTP.

Obviously, the peace dialogue with the TTP has a number of challenges including the overt and covert role of the United States in the region. It must be emphasised here that the former TTP Chief Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in the US. Drone strike which led to the delay in the initiation of peace talks with the Taliban.

Add to this, the inherent contradiction in Pakistan’s regime has always been problematic because its Government supported the cause of Taliban in different phases of peace and conflict in the Indian sub-Continent.

More so as Islamabad has adopted cross-border terrorism as an element of its foreign policy which also saw how the Taliban flourishes and fulfils the Pakistan’s objectives and realises its larger fundamental goals.

Thus, the evolution of the Taliban and its growing tentacles as a force to reckon with has thrown open a lot of challenges to regional peace and stability. Over the years, Pakistan has seen evolution of madrasaas and a number of other Islamic colleges, which are run by fundamentalist forces, more particularly the Jamiat-e-Ulema.

Additionally, the members of the Taliban Islamic Movement of Afghanistan were mostly Pashtuns and the way they expanded their horizon across the region engulfed a larger section of society.

Interestingly, the Taliban has always advocated and preached the need for an Islamic revolution in Afghanistan. They were successful to a greater extent in creating their pervasive influence in large parts of the region. Technically, more than half of Afghanistan is either contested by the Taliban or under Taliban control.

The Taliban operates a parallel political administration in a number of provinces including Paktia, Khost and Paktika provinces. They fully comply and enforce Sharia law, run courts and recruit new carders for the promotion of their interests.

Indisputably, the challenges to Pakistan’s internal peace and stability have grown because of the proliferation of various recruitment and fund raising centres. It is obvious that the functioning of the Taliban has gone much beyond the expectations of Pakistan’s Government.

Clearly, the understanding on Taliban’s overall functioning and its various other groupings seems to be limited. There will always remain a challenge to find out the ways and means by which certain resolution to the existing irritants can be explored.

It must be pointed out here that on the one hand Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been showing his willingness to portray the overall regional interest. But ultimately how much his convictions are in consonance with the ongoing reality needs to be assessed.

Therefore dealing with the TTP remains a complex challenge despite the fact that the US helped in establishing its headquarters in Doha. Certainly, the option of a full-scale military offensive would not be viable even if the reconciliation process fails.

The withdrawal of US forces by December end would create a different dimension for peace and stability in the region. Wherein, the role played by the Pakistani Government would be of great relevance in managing the emerging challenges.

Importantly, there is an attempt being made by the Karzai Government secretly to engage with the Taliban and reach a peace settlement of the US and its Western allies. Will such engagement yield any desirable result needs to be analysed.

In sum, the outcomes in all these peace processes will definitely have a bearing on both regional and global peace and stability. How much concessions can be made in wooing the support of the Taliban would very much depend on the commitments made by both sides.

Afghanistan in particular cannot see stability without full cooperation from Pakistan, even if the US has to cut a deal with the Taliban, Pakistan’s role would be paramount. Also, the negotiation process is not going to be easy because it has to accommodate the interests of the Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks in addition to Pashtun warlords and tribal leaders.

As a consequence the process of negotiation has to be recalibrated and crafted very carefully so that the region attains peace and stability after the US withdrawal by December end. As a result, Pakistan would be required to make serious efforts in transforming its rhetoric into reality. ------ INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


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