Worryingly, the Pakistan government is engaging the militant group in talks from a position of weakness.
In this August 5, 2012, file photo, Pakistani Taliban patrol in their stronghold of Shawal in Pakistani tribal region of South Waziristan.
Credit: AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mahsud, File
The Pakistani government has been negotiating with the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for weeks in an effort to permanently halt cross-border attacks from Afghanistan. The latest round of intense and extensive negotiations has seen Pakistan going all in to involve relevant stakeholders to reach an agreement with the group. A tribal jirga of prominent elders has visited Kabul many times to persuade the group to shun violence. To ensure that the peace process stays on track, the Afghan Taliban have thrown their weight behind the ongoing negotiations.
As a result the TTP has declared an indefinite ceasefire with the Pakistani government. Following the announcement of the ceasefire last week, the government acknowledged for the first time that it was negotiating with the TTP.
While both sides have shown willingness to negotiate, it remains to see if the ongoing peace talks can result in a lasting peace. There are several reasons to believe that the ongoing peace negotiations will not be enough to restore peace in the region.
To begin with, the idea of negotiating with a militant organization, which has murdered thousands of Pakistanis, shows that the state of Pakistan has failed to restore its writ after years of crackdown on the group. Pakistani state’s decision to negotiate with the TTP not only legitimizes the group but offers it an opportunity to recuperate in the long run.
Pakistan’s inability to force the group into submission underscores that Islamabad is not negotiating with the group from a position of strength. TTP has not only asked for the withdrawal of the Pakistani military from tribal areas as part of the negotiations process but also it has demanded the reversal of the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas into Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The group’s leadership also wants to keep its organizational structure intact as part of the peace deal.
If the state of Pakistan agrees to these terms, it would amount to surrendering to a militant group. A concession of this sort will have far reaching implications on Pakistan’s stability as other militant groups based in the country would raise similar demands, forcing Islamabad into making deals with them.
Arguably, even if Pakistan agrees to a peace deal with the TTP, there is no assurance that the group will follow through on the agreement. The implementation of an agreement with the Taliban “will be tricky and involve trusting a militant group that has been brutal in its tactics and actions,” writes Maliha Lodhi, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States.
“This also casts doubt on how lasting the ceasefire will be, given the stop-go experience of [past] ceasefires,” she says.
To an extent, TTP is negotiating with Pakistan because the group’s hosts in Afghanistan are under pressure from the Pakistani military over the issue. Reportedly, last month Pakistan conveyed to Afghan Taliban that it would no more tolerate cross-border terrorist attacks.
Afghanistan’s acting Minister for Interior Sirajuddin Haqqani recently said that the end of TTP’s fight with Pakistan was in their best interests. “Any attack from this side irks Pakistan, which creates problems for us with our neighbor and such incidents have international ramifications for the Islamic Emirate,” Haqqani was quoted as saying by a senior jirga member. “But we don’t want to coerce the TTP. They have waged jihad with us against the Americans and made sacrifices. It would be better that Pakistan and TTP come to terms, after giving each other some concessions,” Haqqani told the tribal group negotiating on Pakistan’s behalf.
Afghan Taliban have shown that they will not act against the TTP on Pakistan’s wishes and if Islamabad wants to make a deal with the group, it will have to make significant concessions. Even after such concessions are made, one cannot be sure that any deal will stand in the long run and how will it impact Pakistan’s internal stability.