EDITORIAL: Calling off the “indefinite ceasefire” agreement, the so-called Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorists have escalated attacks on Pakistani soldiers and civilians. On Wednesday six policemen and two soldiers were martyred in Lakki Marwat and Bajaur districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in two back-to-back attacks claimed by the TTP.
Before that it took credit for killing a police constable in Dera Ismael Khan, a police officer in Lakki Marwat, and an attack in Peshawar that claimed the life of one policeman and left three others, including an SHO, injured.
Last Sunday, Pakistan closed the Friendship Gate at the Chaman border after armed men from the Afghan side opened fire on Pakistani security personnel, resulting in the loss of one soldier’s life and injuries to two others, and made good their escape on a motorbike in the presence of Afghan security personnel.
Apparently, they are under instructions by the Kabul government hosting TTP militants not to treat them seriously.
This is the outcome of the ill-advised peace negotiations the State started a year ago with the terror outfit which has the blood on its hands of some 80,000 Pakistanis, including 132 children and nine staff members of the Peshawar Army Public School.
Little is known what transpired in these talks, except that taking the government’s willingness to negotiate as a sign of desperation or weakness, the TTP leadership made a preposterous demand that the merger of the erstwhile federally administered tribal areas with KP be reversed and security forces evicted from these areas, thus practically handing them control over the tribal areas . They also turned down the government offer to allow militants to return home unarmed for reintegration in society.
Yet reports suggest many have returned to Swat and Dir as well as some tribal districts of KP, claiming they had done so following an agreement. Though the government denies making any such agreement, people in those areas have been staging protest demonstrations complaining of violence, intimidation, murder and kidnappings by the retuning militants.
Meanwhile, TTP has been using the talks as an opportunity to regroup and revive itself in Pakistan. The interior ministry admitted as much in a recent letter sent to provincial administrations, warning them of terrorist attacks, saying it had taken “grave notice” of reports that TTP militants are attempting to migrate to North and South Waziristan as well as deeper within KP from the neighbouring Afghan provinces, terming it “a worrisome phenomenon.”
Furthermore, said the letter, more than a year-long peace negotiations between the TTP and the government of Pakistan “have come to a standstill”. The use of word ‘standstill’ rather than ‘end’ suggests the government remains willing to talk, which will only prolong the conflict causing more loss of life.
It can only be hoped that those who have been negotiating with the terrorists on behalf of the State have realised the futility of their effort. It is about time they paid heed to the advice of some of their own who conducted successful counter-terrorism operations against TTP militants, such as Lt. Gen Tarik Khan (retd), who has been warning that these people are unlikely to “undertake a process other than physical conflict. Once they lose the rank and file, they are lost and will not survive.”
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022