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Glimmer of hope?: Talks with the Taliban
Publication Date : 25-09-2013
Slowly, very, very slowly, the slightest of cracks in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N)’s resolve to pursue talks come what may are beginning to appear.
In the wake of the devastating, double suicide attack on the All Saints Church, the leadership of the two parties have begun to mumble, however softly, about who can be talked to and on what terms.
Tragic as it may be that it has taken the death of a general and scores of Christians for the country’s frontline political leadership to understand that the state cannot and must not negotiate without a clear sense of what can and cannot be negotiated on, such realisations are perhaps a case of better late than never.
And there is still a long, long run that has to be travelled before militancy can be defeated or ended.
Until now, the problem with talks as proposed by the government and vehemently pushed by the PTI has been two-fold.
First, why talk at all with violent, murderous thugs whose explicit political agenda and ideology is simply untenable within Pakistan as it is constitutionally and historically envisaged to be? That bigger question has unhappily been drowned out by the myriad confusions and conspiracy theories which have left society and the political leadership confused and unsure.
Unfortunate as that reality is, perhaps another round of public negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) would draw them out into the open once again and make clear their agenda of violence and hate, as happened in Swat under the Taliban. And once that reality is clear to everyone or at least no longer deniable by militancy apologists and sympathisers it could help the state move decisively against the TTP.
To reiterate, this is far from a welcome scenario, perhaps one that has been necessitated by the endless debate over whether this is our war or someone else’s.
The other problem with talks, however, is the manner in which the government has gone about laying the groundwork for them. The TTP has virtually been legitimised by the political leadership, its sins against the Pakistani people scrubbed away and its outrageous demands treated as plausible starting points for dialogue.
None of that is acceptable, at least if a meaningful version of peace is to be effected. Peace comes in various stripes, like the so-called peace and security of the Taliban in Afghanistan in the mid-90s.
That cannot be the peace Pakistan settles for, and the sooner the political class here publicly accepts the fact, the better off the country will be.