TTP office in Pakistan?
PTI chief Imran Khan is never short of proposals to facilitate peace talks with the Taliban even when these are bereft of any logic and reason, if not clearly outlandish. The latest he made in Peshawar on Wednesday after meeting the injured churchgoers in hospital is a class by itself, however. He wants the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to be invited to open an office in Pakistan for peace dialogue in 'accordance with a decision of the recently-held all-party conference'. That the APC unanimously agreed to engage the Taliban in peace talks it is all there, but it had not envisaged making an invitation to them to open an office in Pakistan. The Khan erred even further; he wrongly drew a parallel between his proposal and the Afghan Taliban's office in Qatar, an island state in the Gulf which is not part of Afghanistan. Read further his reported statement, and wonder at the PTI chief's concept of national sovereignty and its sanctity. In taking further his proposal he says: "If the Americans can allow the opening of office in Qatar to facilitate talks with the Afghan Taliban why can't we do in our own country". The answer is: We can't do it because we are not a third country, like Qatar, for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. And also, it was the United States, and not Afghanistan, which had conceived and materialised this arrangement. Is Imran willing to play the role of America in the APC's dialogue format? It may be of interest to the PTI leadership to know that the Qatar peace process did not take off mainly because the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, objected to the Taliban office in Doha which to him flaunted the trappings of a sovereign government. How come the TTP and its murderous affiliates who openly claim responsibility for the massacre of nearly 50,000 Pakistanis, including thousands of soldiers and security personnel, and of exploding bombs in bazaars, places of worship, destroying hundreds of schools not sparing even the funerals, should be accorded prestige and standing of an equal partner in affairs of the State? The failure of the PTI-led government in fighting back the terrorists doesn't mean stooping that low as to concede official status to the TTP. Yes, war is an expensive business, but to surrender to the forces that are hell-bent to make Pakistan what it is not is not acceptable whatever the cost of that war be. A much smaller army in Sri Lanka didn't give up to the insurgents though the victory came to it after 30 years. Independence is a cause good enough to fight for and die for.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2013
Then there are some technical issues with Imran's proposal. For instance, which of the Taliban's '35 groups' that he believes are in the field should be invited to open the office. Also, isn't the Fata, where most of these outfits reside and operate from, a part of Pakistan? History is witness to the fact that more often than not the TTP and its affiliates would agree to some peace agreement and then violate it. That this time the TTP can be trusted, we don't know of any extra development which should induce the terrorist outfits to shun violence and join the nation in peace march. Maybe there is something recessed deep behind - not yet in the public domain and to which only a few are privy - which makes Imran so much sanguine of a fruitful peace dialogue with the Taliban. But the picture that tends to obtain since the announcement of national consensus on need to engage the Taliban two weeks back is not very optimistic. Within days of the APC the Taliban not only killed a major-general and his colleagues then bombed the All Saints Church in Peshawar killing 84 innocent churchgoers - of course in addition to a number of other terrorist attacks. We pray Khan's appeasing posture doesn't invite a similar response. If all that has happened is the doing of a third party interested in subverting the proposed peace talks between the government and the TTP, as claimed by Imran Khan and some others, we expect the claimants to lift the lid. We wonder if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in picture about this third party involvement, otherwise he would not have put on hold the APC offer to initiate peace process with the Taliban by saying "we had proposed talks in good faith but because of this attack the government is unable to move forward with what it planned and envisaged".