It was not difficult to fathom what the APC (All Parties Conference) on the 9th of September, 2013 in Islamabad, would yield as far as terrorism is concerned. With the Taliban wreaking havoc on peace and tranquility in a de-facto security state such as Pakistan for over a decade, the Prime Minister’s initial decision to tackle the issue by forging a consensus through hosting an APC, was worth lauding from the outset. Yet the euphoria was short-lived after the unanimous resolution that was passed, where the need to negotiate with the Taliban was to be the first line of action.
As a student of Peace and Conflict studies, I found it astounding that there was an agreement on negotiating with an actor such as the ‘Tehrik-I-Taliban’ Pakistan, which neither qualifies as a right wing political party such as the BJP in India or the JUI in Pakistan, but is a militant organization that brazenly challenges the writ of the state. In addition, to consider the Taliban to be liberation movement similar to the BLA is also a criminally bare narrative. Ironically, negotiating with the tribal leaders in Balochistan or members of the BLA could have been a far more rational proposition, given that the Balochistan insurgency is fueled by ethnic and economic discrimination throughout the province’s history.
Yet various party members and leaders of the opposition who attended the conference in Islamabad on Monday night, without much deliberation, acknowledged that launching a full scale military operation was off the cards, yet detaching the country from the US led war efforts was also a necessity. It was an interesting paradox indeed, made even more so, when the PTI chairman, Imran Khan expressed satisfaction over meetings with the Chief of Army Staff and the Prime Minister.
This statement, from the PTI, a political party which has been given the responsibility to govern the KPK, ( the most restive province in the country after Balochistan), was a bewildering although not surprising revelation given the party’s stance, where negotiations with an entity that brazen challenges the writ of the state was the way forward. In addition the PML N, a party which has gained notoriety for its ambiguous stance with regard to denouncing terrorist outfits in the country, toed the very same line, despite the Taliban repeatedly claiming that all bets for negotiations with the Pakistan state, (which it views as a toeing towards American objectives) are off.
One wonders, then what exactly was the deduction that emerged in Islamabad all about, and how will security dynamics spell out in the country after it? An entity which has been out rightly banned by the Pakistan government in 2008, and does not qualify for negotiations in the first place, is actually being taken up as a stakeholder. This very same stake holder has claimed responsibility for horrendous events such as the school bus shooting in 2012 of Malala Yousafzai, a youth activist blogger, of which all parties in the APC were quick to denounce. What unfolded in the APC on the other hand was to exercise unbelievable restraint with regard to such an entity.
History provides us with ample evidence that negotiations have proven to be successful, only with right wing parties and liberation movements, and not with entities which challenge the writ of the state and aim at imposing ideologues which in this case is largely, puritanical in nature. The IRA in the United Kingdom is an example of a revolutionary, militant organization which embarked on a guerilla campaign against British rule in Ireland. Their struggle eventually made way for the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921, where Northern Ireland was given the option of withdrawing from the state of the UK or remaining a part of it. Despite the IRA splitting over the basic provisions of that treaty, one notices stark differences between the entity and the TTP.
Firstly, the TTP itself is a loosely knit organization, where internal rivalries and leadership disputes cloud their ability to come to the negotiation table, despite the recent statement by Ehsanullah Ehsan, welcoming the unanimous resolution passed by the Pakistan government. The worrisome part however, is the nature of both organizations, where the IRA’s revolutionary struggle paved the way for negotiations as compared to the TTP which is hell bent upon imposing its interpretation of state ideology, not only in Pakistan but also in neighboring Afghanistan and India as well. Ties that bind between the Afghan Taliban and the TTP provide substance to this claim and has been described in Simon Frazen’s ‘ Unity in Terrorism’, where the TTP is considered to be a ‘ limb of the mainstream Taliban’, with a joint goal of imposing Sharia Law.
Having lived in Sri Lanka, amid the turbulence that was caused by the Lanka Tamil Tiger Elam in 2006, my mind shifted to the Rajapakse government’s decision to revise the provisions of ceasefire agreement between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, which could give the military broader powers against the organization in 2007. This provision was against a terrorist organization which neither subscribed to the writ of the Sri Lankan state and neither did represent the aspirations of the majority of the Sri Lankan Tamils in their quest for establishing a separate Tamil state.
Sadly, the Taliban fall under the same category, yet the Nawaz led government has been adamant in refraining from ensuring that the country’s red lines are drawn against an entity which is as ruthless as the LTTE in full flow. With the APC considering negotiations as the first line of action, one wonders what this would spell out for security dynamics in Pakistan. For the Taliban at least, this resolution could be the opportunity that they need to present themselves as a potent force that can lure any government on the negotiating table, let alone the Pakistan government at the center.