Appeasement increasingly seems imprudent
The postponement of talks leads one to hope the prime minister has finally realised that the TTP is in fact playing tricks with the government. Had the network been serious about talks it would have constituted a panel comprising its own top negotiators with sufficient powers to bargain. Its nomination of mainstream leaders on its committee without even seeking their approval was meant to divide the public opinion and create rifts within the political parties. Subsequently Imran Khan and Fazlur Rehman declined to sit on the TTP nominated body. Now the militant network wants to nominate a right wing journalist and a fellow traveler who was interestingly also approached by Nawaz Sharif to join the government panel! The committee appointed by the TTP is powerless as a simultaneously created nine-member political Shura comprising militant heavyweights would be breathing down its neck all the time. The idea is to preclude the possibility of any agreement brokered by the dummy committee nominated to hold talks with the government panel.
The TTP has paid no heed to Sharif’s call for an end to terrorist activities during the talks. Had the TTP been serious it would have stopped these attacks to create an environment of trust once the talks had been announced. This failed to happen. As Sharif continued to be effusive about negotiations despite the militants’ aggressive posture, the appeasement further emboldened the TTP. A day after the government announced its committee, two activists of a local peace committee and a policeman were gunned down outside Peshawar by terrorists. Six labourers working in Orakzai agency were killed after forcing entry inside their temporary residence. Five people lost lives and more than 30 were injured when grenades were hurled inside a cinema in Peshawar. This was a signature TTP attack as the network had closed down all cinemas during is brief takeover of Swat.
The militants have continued to target the army as before. Three rockets were fired on the Bannu Cantonment on Sunday morning while two soldiers were injured in an IED blast in Ladha, South Waziristan, on Monday. Troops foiled attacks on the Punjab Regimental Centre and a Police Station in Mardan and arrested two TTP men and recovered explosives from them. Gen Sharif has reportedly pointed out to the prime minister that despite the TTP’s apparent readiness to get involved in the peace dialogue, the terrorist group was still targeting troops, which according to the general was unacceptable.
It was a folly to accept the invitation of talks at this stage. Unless the TTP has been put to rout through military action in its strongholds and denied access to cities by a watchful police, it will not show keenness for genuine talks. Whatever parleys are needed should be conducted only from a position of strength with the government dictating the terms. It is the terrorists who are to surrender and not the state.