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Pak-Taliban Talks: WILL BREAKDOWN ALTER POLICY?, By Prof. Arvind Kumar, 26 Feb, 2014 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 26 February 2014

Pak-Taliban Talks


By Prof. Arvind Kumar

(Dept. of Geopolitics & Intl Relations, Manipal Univ)


Pakistan recently initiated peace talks with the Taliban largely to restore confidence and trust after the realisation that Islamabad has become the victim of its own State policy of sponsoring cross-border terrorism. Additionally, it was to make an assessment about the mindset of Taliban whether there can be a deal on peace building in the region. It was certain that the inherent contradictions and ambiguity in the behavioural patterns of both Pakistan and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) will not lead to any serious and committed negotiations.


Moreover, the members of the international community in general and India in particular have been watching these developments cautiously. However, the evolving reality suggests that there is a lack of seriousness and commitment on the part of Pakistan and the TTP with regard to any type of convergence.


The desire for peace talks was mainly shown from the Government of Pakistan. But, it did not augur well because of the recent events which shaped their policies. The attack on the TTP hideouts in Pakistan’s north western region by Pakistani Army Helicopters signified the change of stance. It may also have happened because of the breakdown in the peace negotiations between the Taliban and the government.


The Pakistan Army seems to be completely changing its position and its recent attack on TTP has raised a number of pertinent questions, including whether the Pakistani Army can significantly contribute to the growth of peace and stability, both within Pakistan and the South Asia region itself. It must be reiterated here that the Pakistani Army had always been tacitly working with these groups. There is a growing debate among members of strategic and academic community whether the Pakistani Army will dismantle the base of the Taliban.


Further, the debate on the role of Taliban in the foreseeable future has gained momentum mainly because of the planned US troops’ withdrawal by December 2014. The emerging geopolitical environment will very much depend on what role the Taliban will have and how peace and stability will be achieved.       


The government of Pakistan and the banned Taliban established a committee formally to discuss and deliberate on the modalities for peace. Such a committee had a mandate but unfortunately it could not find resonance with its own subsets. However, the right wing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F has distanced itself from participating in the negotiations and the peace process.


The four-member committee appointed by the government comprises senior journalists Irfan Siddiqui and Rahimullah Yusuf Zai, former ISI official, Major Mohammad Amir, former Ambassador Rustam Shah Mohmand, with the objective being to bring the perspective from Pakistani media, diplomatic community and intelligence agencies. Hence, the constituent of the committee was mainly to elicit the views on the ongoing challenges emanating from Taliban and then form a common ground for a solution to end terrorism. It was unfortunate that the dialogue broke down and that the situation is apparently very precarious.


The expectation of the international community in general and Pakistan in particular from such a committee from both sides (the government of Pakistan and TTP) was to move forward in a positive direction and intensify the overall peace process. However, the inherent contradiction in Pakistan’s regime has always been problematic because the government supported the cause of Taliban in different phases of peace and conflict in the Indian subcontinent.


Pakistan has adopted cross-border terrorism as an element in its foreign policy, saw how Taliban flourishes and fulfils these objectives and realize the larger fundamental goals of the country. Indeed, Taliban’s evolution and its growing tentacles, as a force to reckon with has thrown open a number of challenges to both regional peace and stability. Over the years Pakistan has seen growth of madrasaas and a number of other Islamic colleges, which are run by fundamentalist forces, more particularly the Jamiat-e-Ulema.


Undeniably, 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 Taliban has gone much beyond the expectations of Pakistan’s government. Last week’s execution of 23 prisoners of war by the TTP symbolises strengthening of the jihadist thinking and culture. In response to this, the combat jets and Army Helicopters have bombed Jihadist held region in North Waziristan. The current situation has embroiled into a dilemma of whether there will be any solution or will Pakistan further move towards complex challenges and disintegration.


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


Dealing with TTP remains a complex challenge despite the fact that the United States helped it in establishing its headquarters in Doha. The option of a full-scale military offensive against TTP got reflected in the statement made by the head of Pakistan’s Army General Raheel Sharif, when he categorically made it clear that they are ready to face any type of new and complex situation.


The need of the hour is to change the stance, mindsets, and adamant positions among a number of governmental institutions in Pakistan including the intelligence agencies. These agencies require evolving an understanding about Taliban, mainly dictated by their behavioural patterns. All these years, Pakistan has kept treating Taliban as their strategic assets. Such thinking requires a quantum shift in the approaches for betterment of the State.


The growing Pakistani Army resolve to deal with these uncertain situations raises an important point whether Islamabad will experience a drastic change in its policy and the Army will take a pro-active stand. Will Pakistani Army get the support of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in fighting the Taliban, which it largely created and gave it the inherent strength? If the Pakistani Army is aware about the hideouts of the TTP, then it would be easier for it to crack down provided there is a will and support from every agency of Pakistani regime.


It is high time that better sense prevails amongst the Pakistan establishment so that the South Asia region ushers in peace and stability. The consequences of such action by Pakistani Army will be always positive and appreciated by the region and the world. At the same time, it certainly would be in the interest of Pakistan. The time is ripe for such action. ---INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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