ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, on Friday said that the talks with the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were meant to wean away the reconcilable elements, at a time, when the group was at a weak point.

He said this, while responding to the questions raised by the main political parties on the rationale and strategy for government’s dialogue with the TTP.

He was speaking virtually at a dialogue of the political parties on the government’s talks with the TTP.

The event was hosted by Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI), a local think tank.

The IPI held the meeting to assess the political and security ramifications of the start of the government’s dialogue with the TTP; and analyse the challenge of extending legitimacy to the terrorist group.

Chaudhry insisted that not everyone in the TTP was ideologically committed to the group and many of them were ready for reconciling with the State.

He emphasised that the hardcore base of the group was very narrow, comprising hardly 1,500–2,000 militants, and getting the reconcilables to part ways with it would weaken it.

“The State wanted to give an opening to the people who do not want to raise arms against us. We can’t prolong fights generation after generations,” he maintained and said those who would not renounce violence would be dealt with sternly.

He argued that the government was negotiating from a position of strength unlike the mistake committed by the United States in Afghanistan that did not talk to Afghan Taliban when it was at the acme of its power.

The information minister further disclosed that some of the TTP factions were linked to Afghan Taliban, who think that those who resorted to violence for reasons other than ideological should be engaged.

PML-N leader Khurram Dastgir Khan said his party rejected talks with the TTP at that stage because there was no clarity about the process and the group with which talks were being held.

“Pakistani state’s negotiation with and mainstreaming of extremist religious groups have both failed catastrophically in the recent past. There is therefore neither cause nor justification for Imran Khan regime’s unilateral offer of amnesty to an organisation that has murdered tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians as well as soldiers,” he underscored.

He said government’s offer of amnesty to the TTP was a “blunder of appeasement”, and “taken condemnably” without consulting the Parliament.

The PML-N, he said, demanded that the government should brief the Parliament forthwith with detailed facts as well as its overall strategy.

Secretary General Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Farhatullah Babar also called on the State to clarify its position with regards to the dialogue with the terrorist group.

“Before we get into talks with the militants, we have to set our strategic interests and goals,” he said.

Babar feared that Pakistan’s support for Afghan Taliban was helping the local militant groups psychologically.

“If we are supporting Afghan Taliban, we are indirectly supporting TTP because they are one and the same,” he said. The PPP leader further asked the government to keep an eye on the “great game” in Afghanistan, while making such moves.

Regarding the government’s amnesty offer for TTP militants, he said, concessions should not be extended unilaterally.

MQM leader Senator Faisal Subzwari said poor progress on the National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism and absence of a narrative for countering that of militants brought the country to the situation it was confronted with now.

ANP Information Secretary Samar Bilour questioned holding of talks at a time when the wounds inflicted by the TTP were still fresh.

She regretted that the Parliament was bypassed on the matter.

Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen Deputy Secretary General Nasir Shirazi said the government before going into talks should ascertain that the TTP groups that it was talking to, had shunned violence and were committed to pursuing peace.

He also called for taking the heirs of the martyrs on board on the talks.

Executive Director IPI Prof Sajjad Bokhari said a key challenge facing the government, political parties, civil society and other stakeholders is figuring out how to disarm and demobilise TTP without according it legitimacy.

He said that while the State and its organs could forgive and forget violence inflicted against them, but the heirs of victims might find it difficult to do so.

“Is a new precedent being set in Pakistan, that from now on, any armed group which has targeted unarmed civilians can be brought into political mainstream through talks if it renounces violence?” he questioned.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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