The talks between the TTP and the government have many problems, which can be traced to the fact that there seemed to be no parliamentary oversight. That is to end soon, as an in-camera session of Parliament’s National Security Committee is to meet for an in-camera briefing on these talks, with briefings to be provided by the COAS and the DG ISI. This way, not only will parliamentary parties be briefed about the negotiations that are taking place, but those carrying out the negotiations will get access to input from the elected representatives in whose name the talks are taking place, and will probably get a better sense of what is acceptable and what is not.
It is perhaps symptomatic that the talks have come to a cause on the question of the status of the tribal areas. The TTP wants that status to revert back to the previous one of Federally Administered Tribal Areas where the Frontier Crime Regulations applied. It has been told that only Parliament can concede that, and that too by passing a constitutional amendment. It transpires that the real purpose of merging to trivial areas into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was to bring them to the national mainstream, but as tactics in the War on Terror.
The negotiations were primarily handled by the military and the ISI, partly because the TTP had brought in the Afghan Taliban, considered for so long an ISI asset, to the negotiating table. The PPP found itself multiply excluded, with its co-Chair Bilawal Bhutto Zardari not just the Foreign Minister who should have properly headed these talks, but also the son of someone assassinated by the TTP. That the NSC meeting was convened by the government because of PPP pressure was perhaps inevitable. It should bring home to TTP sympathizers that only personal pain should not be the only reason for bringing an essentially national matter to the attention of Parliament in the form of an NSC meeting. It might also be noted that this is an instance of the strengthening of the committee system, which is still embryonic in Pakistan, but which requires a strengthening if parliamentary government is to take root.