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Now or never challenge

Time is running out - another fortnight or so the snowmelt would set in giving kick to life in the high-altitude, snow-bound tribal areas. If a targeted military operation against the immobilised Taliban militants was ever on the cards the opportunity window for it is getting shorter by the day. Taliban are in no hurry; they would like the so-called peace dialogue between them and the government to last as long as the winter lasts. Even when their interlocutors try to project their conclave with them a 'breakthrough' they remain obscure and enigmatic - except for the advice to the government to go slow. The TTP spokesman wants that 'both sides should not make haste...both parties would have to exercise patience if minor irritants happened during the talks'. In actuality, the 'one more chance' Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave to the terrorist outfit is what it desperately wanted to escape an almost certain targeted military operation after the Bannu massacre and killings under the ramparts of the General Headquarters. One would be duly surprised if it is said that army high command was on the same page with the government on the timing of this peace process. Come summer the militants would be out of their hideouts toting guns killing people all over the tribal areas and other places. If military action were the last option and terrorists in North Waziristan have to be dealt a crushing blow then it brooks no further delay.

Think of the preconditions the willingness of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan to quit killing people is predicated upon. It wants release of its prisoners from jails, withdrawal of army from the tribal areas and compensation for the damage caused by the CIA-operated drone strikes. Translated, the Taliban leadership desires official recognition of its unquestioned rule over the tribal people and assistance to take deeper into the national landscape its reign of terror. And of those it would like to be released could be Dr Usman who organised and led the murderous attack on the GHQ. Will he go straight home from jail and devote rest of his life to the cause of peace and harmony? Or, will he follow the pattern set by Adnan Rashid who broke Bannu jail and then returned to the place to take revenge on the security force? On the face of it, there is not much to expect that the GHQ would concur to the release of Taliban prisoners just because this would facilitate the pace of peace negotiations. That the Taliban leadership is agreeable to keeping talks within the constitutional limits, the message their interlocutors are flashing as a big breakthrough, it has no relevance to the ground realities. The Taliban want to conquer and rule tribal areas by hook or crook; for this to actualise they would promise anything under the sun. This certainly calls for an input of the GHQ to ensure that what cannot be done should not be promised.

More than a week into the talking process there is not much on the ground as concrete output. Even on the day Maulana Samiul Haq was exuding excessive optimism about the TTP's 'positive response' and Professor Ibrahim was promising 'the nation will hear good news soon', four women were killed in Peshawar, three teachers were butchered in Hangu and security forces were targeted in tribal areas in acts of terrorism. What peace is being discussed then? Said unvarnished, the government has been tricked into postponing military action against Taliban in North Waziristan. Given the strategic importance of the evolving regional situation in the wake of withdrawal of US-led coalition forces from Afghanistan the reigning confusion and chaos in North Waziristan has come to pose a huge challenge to our national security. It is a now or never situation; further delay in restoring order and normality there should not be allowed - even to best-intentioned peace-proponents.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2014


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ICT 2014

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