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EDITORIAL: The behind-the-scene Pakistan military talks with Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have been in process for quite some time. These would sometimes lead to ceasefire and would break down at times for whatever reasons. The only conclusion one could safely draw from this uncertainty can be that perhaps it is for asking too much on the part of TTP or the TTP’s inflexibility on some of the core issues besetting the two sides.

The government in Kabul appears to be concerned only to the extent that the talks should continue and the ceasefire when agreed upon doesn’t collapse. Unfortunately, however, it’s not bothered about the question whether or not TTP will ultimately surrender to Pakistan. The latest round of talks, on June 22, too, hasn’t broken any fresh ground; and so was the fate of the visit of Pakistan tribal Jirga excepting the TTP’s decision to hold on to the ceasefire. But even during this ceasefire there have been sporadic incidents of violence.

Such incidents have, therefore, sharpened the civilian political leadership’s appetite to know the whole truth about the talks with TTP. And that is the case, particularly with reference to the TTP’s demand for reversal of merger of the FATA with KP and withdrawal of military troops from the tribal region. There is no reason to believe that the military representatives would ever concede to such an outlandish demand. But Pakistan People’s Party in particular appears to have shown cautious distrust in this regard. Responding to this misperception, the military leadership met a wide cross-section of civilian leaderships in Parliament House on Tuesday and extensively briefed them on various aspects of the situation on the ground.

Not only did it inform the civilian leadership about its strategy that it has employed in relation to talks, it also told them that the entire process of talks with TTP is within the framework of the Constitution. But the civilians wanted more of it, including ownership of the whole gamut of talks process; to which the military leadership had no objection.

As to what was agreed upon as future line of action a government press release said the parliamentary committee, which was the forum of briefing by the military leadership, gave a formal approval to advance the dialogue (with the TTP) process, and also decided to constitute a parliamentary oversight committee “with responsibility to oversee the dialogue process within the parameters of the constitution”. To the extent that the TTP talks process is now a national issue and not exclusively a military initiative the briefing of the parliamentary committee is a step in the right direction.

But problem with this development is its materialization in a concrete form in the parliament. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) declined to attend the briefing; while its Senators stayed away. Even the Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa didn’t show up. With PTI, which has a huge vote bank in the tribal areas, being not on board the oversight by parliament is likely to be treated by the PTI as the present government’s point of view. Ideally, the TTP talks process should have been left to the military leadership. In other words, TTP talks constitute too serious a business to be left to politicians, to say the least.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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