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EDITORIAL: Now that increasing TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) presence in KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), and increasing violence associated with it, has made its way to the National Assembly, and Defence Minister Khwaja Asif has agreed that it is indeed “a national issue” not just a provincial matter, the government ought to seriously reconsider any further negotiations with the enemy.

Responding to independent MNA Mohsin Dawar, from the former tribal area, the minister accepted that violence had risen in KP following the peace talks, which encouraged a lot of TTP foot soldiers to feel safe about crossing the Durand Line in broad daylight for the first time since the military cracked down on the militia about eight years ago.

Dawar knew what he was talking about, not the least since he’s suffered for airing his concerns in the past and also because he called out the province’s ruling party, PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf), for celebrating the triumphant return of the Afghan Taliban to Kabul one year ago, and for being equally happy and optimistic about indulging in peace talks with TTP.

Now who’s to blame if the critics are turning out to be right and violence is spreading very quickly out of erstwhile Fata (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) and into the PTI-held province? And since this new wave of terrorism already includes an attack on a PTI MPA and abductions of a police official and an army major, perhaps the security establishment can also now see the futility of the negotiations it’s been trying so hard to push ahead.

Why, after all, have we released their prisoners and sent delegation after delegation to them even though they refuse to budge from their core demands of returning Fata to its old status and implementing its own peculiar reading of Shariah law there?

It’s not just that a very large section of Pakistani society is simply appalled at these negotiations, it’s also that some, apparently even from within the armed forces, have been warning that TTP will only use these talks to lay low and grow stronger and it is going to abandon them the minute it powerful enough to resume its attack on the state of Pakistan. There seems more than a small grain of truth in that last argument, not the least because that is what TTP has done each time the government has been duped into believing its offers of ceasefires and talks for more than 10 years.

The situation in KP is clearly deteriorating very fast as people, including PTI loyalists, have started protesting openly against growing TTP presence there. They’ve also shut the border crossing at North Waziristan, which is now seriously hurting trade and commerce as well. Now there’s no telling how soon TTP will strike at one of the protests, to make a very strong point of course, or when it will attempt to force the border open if the government does not intervene quickly; hence the defence minister’s concern that “the danger is gradually increasing”.

Members of parliament should remember that the people breathed a sigh of relief when peace talks with TTP were routed through the house because they felt that they would have a say in them. But if the brief stopover in parliament will only include news briefings to its able members, then there isn’t much that the people will be able to do about any developments; much less know of them in time. This is unfair. Because while there is no denying the military’s bravery in crushing the enemy, let’s not forget that a very big majority of the 80,000-plus people that Pakistanis buried were ordinary civilians. And they must have the strongest, if not the final, say in such matters.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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