government should call TTP’s bluff
government negotiates with terrorists who refuse to give up violence”
As these lines are
being written, a spokesperson of the Pakistani Taliban has claimed they are
withdrawing their offer of peace following the death of the group’s deputy
leader Waliur Rehman in a suspected drone attack. Waliur Rehman is said to
have been “more amenable to peace talks” than his senior Hakeemullah
Even though the CIA has
not yet confirmed that Waliur Rehman was among the seven people killed in
the attack, chances are this will put the offer of talks by the TTP on hold,
for some time at least. It may be worthwhile to remember that the offer of
talks did not mean a ceasefire.
Meanwhile, the country
stands sharply divided on the possibility of holding negotiations with the
Taliban. Or at least that is how it appears if one looks at the viewpoint
that is articulated by analysts on all kinds of media. The political class
was in no two minds even before the election.
Of course, there was one
set of political parties that was directly under attack by the Taliban and
could not campaign. These parties had put their weight behind negotiations
in the All Parties Conferences held months before the election. Others that
were allowed to campaign peacefully declared they were in favour of tracing
peace through the path of negotiations.
It would only be fair to
say that the people voted in the parties that promised a solution of
terrorism through talks. Yet the contours of the debate are sharp and the
message is loud. The anti-talks argument has it all clearly laid down: this
is not the right time to talk; states don’t talk to non-state actors; who
exactly are we going to talk to given the loose groupings of Taliban; what
is the quid pro quo; talks will legitimse the killers and violence;
there’s nothing that the state can offer to the Taliban without losing a
lot of its own ground.
The pro-talks side is
perhaps not as clear except on one thing — talk if the dividend is peace.
If you don’t talk peace, you remain in a state of war. Don’t let more
people die in this senseless war. Let there be talks because people have
voted in their favour. Talks, in the present scenario, mean siding with
Today’s Special Report
looks at the pros and cons of this debate. Like in all debates, truth is
scattered on both sides. One hopes the leaders are able to glean this truth
and bring peace to the hapless people of this region who have seen enough
bloodshed for a lifetime.
Truth be told, the
possibility of talks with the Pakistani Taliban, a favoured route for the
political forces, especially those who have been voted into power in
Election 2013, has received very little support from the intellectual class.
The arguments against negotiations remain rigid and painfully similar, no
matter how frequently they are expressed in private discussions or on the
media or perhaps in matters of policy too.
It is the inflexibility of
approach that has not allowed a fair discussion on what the path of
negotiations could potentially achieve. The little that has been written in
favour of talks begins and ends by refuting the fears of the other side,
instead of making a positive and creative case for solving Pakistan’s
Often the pro-side has had
to adopt a defensive position.
The contrary view, in most
cases, completely rejects the possibility or utility of talks and, when
asked to suggest a solution that could end violence and bring peace,
postulates this is not the right time. Why? Because the Pakistani government
would be talking from a position of weakness, it says. It assumes that the
question of negotiations arises only when “governments are at their lowest
points of leverage”. By that it means, the time is not ripe when the
threat of violence hangs on our heads; negotiations must begin in a period
This is as naïve as
saying that talks must take place once the Taliban accept the writ of the
state and the Constitution, and agree to renounce violence. If that had
happened and the Pakistani state was in a position of strength, we would all
be sitting pretty, not feeling the need to undertake such an exercise.
The period of relative
calm in which to begin the negotiations may well be a wishful dream.
Besides, nobody talks about the position of weakness of the Taliban. In the
guerilla warfare they have waged on this country, they too have to locate
and recruit suicide bombers, and lose them regularly. Nobody suggests that
on the table, they may step down from their stated position.
Twist the argument a bit
and place it in the framework of democracy and this may look like the
perfect time to start the negotiation process.
We know the original
argument — that democracies don’t budge in the face of violence, they
don’t legitimise terrorism and the international consensus against it,
etc. etc. And yet, democratic governments have often negotiated with
terrorists, Peter R. Neumann in his article “Negotiating With
Terrorists” tells us.
The British government, he
says, did so even after the IRA had launched a mortar attack on 10 Downing
Street which almost eliminated the entire British cabinet in 1991. The
Spanish government sat down with the separatist group Basque Homeland and
Freedom after a lethal terrorist strike and even the government of Israel
secretly negotiated the Oslo accords while the PLO continued its terrorist
Ours is a peculiar
situation, we are told, and the extent of violence the citizens of this
country and its security forces have been subjected to is unprecedented.
Agreed. But then, as stated above, this may be a perfect time to talk about
talks; because the government of the day has a democratic mandate to conduct
negotiations. The people have exercised their democratic choice in favour of
Does it not look like a
position of strength — a vast majority of the country’s population,
including the province of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, voting in the election to
support the political process as opposed to the Shariah. The TTP cannot
bring Shariah to the negotiating table after this election, can it? If
anything, here is an incentive for the government to take democratic
politics to its stronghold areas.
The strongholds of TTP
bring one to this other predetermined idea of the anti-talks circles. They
somehow assume the TTP surfaced on Pakistan’s political map out of
nowhere; for them, it in fact came about after the US invasion of
Afghanistan or the US drone strikes within Pakistan or/and as a consequence
of the Lal Masjid operation.
Taliban and their
predilection for violence, and hence the uselessness of talks with them
decontextualises the debate altogether. Somebody at some point in time did
want to exploit the concept of Jihad in a “lawless” and “Rightless”
territory called Fata for their strategic objectives, giving birth to the
phenomenon we now know as Taliban.
That’s when the seeds of
the TTP were laid too.
And that is the nuanced
distinction between the two proponents of talks who happen to be the winners
of the last election. Imran Khan is not willing to look beyond 9/11 and
drones; for him terrorism in this country is a reaction of foreign
occupation, military operations and drones. Mian Nawaz Sharif, too, skips
the context but does not fudge or bypass it. He acknowledges that terrorism
has killed so many people and then says he wants an end to it.
The solution they both
have arrived at is — negotiations. As elected people, they have every
right to explore all possibilities for a peaceful settlement. While Khan
thinks the end of military operations along with negotiations would
automatically bring peace, Sharif sees the solution in economy. On the flip
side, he needs the law and order situation to improve before he can improve
If they both decide to
exclude the option of talks, all they are left with is force. While as
governments, they might feel it their duty to protect the life of their
citizens as well as soldiers.
Besides, like talks, force
[read military operations] has been used before and with consequences. It
means retaliatory attacks by the Taliban in settled areas and big cities; it
also means Internally Displaced People (IDPs) to the tune of hundreds of
thousands at the mercy of the state. Military operations equally entail loss
of innocent lives, lack of information, human rights violations, and no
But why does the use of
force always mean military operation for a common man: because, we have not
been able to develop a comprehensive counter-terrorism mechanism which
includes civilian law-enforcement too.
That brings us to the
central contradiction — if the talks with the Taliban do materialise,
where does the military stand, with or against the civilian dispensation?
When you talk of a democratic framework, the government of the day is or
ought to be the biggest stakeholder. If the mere holding of talks or their
failure means the state loses its monopoly over violence and its control of
territories, who is the actual loser — the civilian government or the
military. That we are still unclear as to who represents the state is the
crux of the matter.
The News on
Sunday: The political forces/parties may have put their weight behind talks
but political analysts are by and large opposed to talks. What is your
rationale for arguing that the talks option with the Taliban should be
Rahimullah Yusufzai: I
have a number of arguments in favour of holding talks with the Taliban. A)
We have a new elected government in place which has every right to pursue
policies it thinks right. Political parties, such as the PTI and the PMLN,
had been calling for peace talks with the militants during their election
campaigns since the larger idea is to be able to improve the law and order
situation and economy of the country. They may or may not succeed but they
should be backed to try this option. B) The option of talks is not something
new or peculiar to a certain government. Talks were also pursued during the
Musharraf and the PPP governments. They were backed by the federal
government and the army was fully on board. Two peace agreements in Swat
were directly negotiated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by the ANP-led coalition
government. It didn’t work but the government tried to peacefully end the
My argument is that
failure of talks is no excuse of abandoning talks. The important thing for
us is that the offer of talks has come from the TTP, which says that the
previous government was not serious in pursuing this option. Now, it’s not
just the Taliban who have demands, the government also has certain demands.
At one point during the PPP’s last government, the federal government’s
position was that the TTP should first lay down arms to sit on the
negotiating table while the ANP head Asfandyar Wali was ready for talks even
if the TTP fighters kept their arms and not use them. Though I’m not very
optimistic about the results of the talks given the overall past history but
I think the government should call their bluff and see how serious the TTP
is this time.
TNS: Do you think there is
a war-weariness at both sides and that this is the right time to start the
talks. If yes, then how long drawn this process going to be? What is your
RY: Yes, there is this
element of war-weariness, but it doesn’t mean that one side would
surrender and the conflict would come to an end. Holding talks and having
results can be a long and torturous experience though. The talks may take
quite a long time to mature. The Afghans have been fighting for the last 35
years. The US has also incurred huge losses in terms of human loss and
financial cost. In Pakistan, the local Taliban have been on the retreat.
They have been losing public support over the years. Many Taliban from Swat
and rest of Malakand division and Bajaur and Mohmand had to cross over to
Afghanistan for this very reason. But the Pakistani Taliban are still
entrenched in the two Waziristans and parts of Orakzai, Kurram and Khyber
tribal regions. That said, it would still be early to underestimate their
strength as they seem able to recruit as many suicide bombers and fighters
as they want.
TNS: The anti-talks
argument holds that we do not know who to talk to and that the state must
not talk to non-state actors? Are you clear who the talks are going to be
with and that these will not leave out some factions?
RY: It is not the right
assessment to say that we do not know who to talk to. The government has
been talking to them in the past. It even talked to the TTP founder
Baitullah Mehsud. If talks are to be held, these would be with the TTP
because it is an umbrella group for most militant groups and is fighting the
state. I think it’s not a question about talking to a non-state actor but
about coming out of this situation. The fighting has been taking place since
2003 and it has taken a huge toll in terms of human lives and economic cost.
It’s even wrong to compare our situation with that of Sri Lanka’s, for
instance, where the ethnic and religious lines between the Sinhalese
Buddhists and the Tamil Hindus were clearly drawn and the state eventually
annihilated the non-state actors. Ours is a more complex situation. People
here are actually divided over whether to start a military operation against
the Taliban or hold talks with them.
TNS: Another argument from
the anti-talks side is about talking from a position of strength or
weakness? They say talking at this point will be like talking from a
position of weakness. Do you agree?
RY: Theoretically, yes.
The state has not been able to defeat them militarily. But we can see that
the Taliban have also not been able to achieve any of their targets in terms
of gaining territory, imposition of sharia laws, and so on. It would have
been ideal for the government to talk from a position of strength, but that
hasn’t happened despite a decade of fighting.
TNS: Related to this
earlier question is the fear about the agenda of the talks. People say that
there is nothing the government can give to the Taliban, neither territory
nor monopoly over violence. What is your opinion?
RY: I think we should not
make an attempt to pre-judge the agenda of the talks. A lot of twists and
turns will take place on the negotiating table itself. But we also should
not forget that the anti-democracy agenda of the Taliban has failed. It
failed in Fata, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and elsewhere where elections were
held and people came out in large numbers to vote despite real threats to
their life and property.
TNS: The anti-talks
argument is premised on the fact that the talks option has been explored
earlier too in the form of peace agreements and has failed. How do you
evaluate the previous agreements done with the Taliban?
RY: We should not forget
that of the 12 or so agreements made with the Taliban during the last 10
years, two agreements are still intact — one was made with the group of
Taliban led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan in 2006 and later
renewed and the other was with the late Maulvi Nazir in Wana, South
Waziristan. One can argue that both these groups are non-TTP and that they
aren’t fighting the government and the military in Pakistan but are
focused primarily on Afghanistan. But if they were not tackled here, they
might one day join the TTP in adding to the problems of Pakistan. The point
is that we can only have results when the two sides sit on the negotiating
TNS: Can we draw a
parallel between talks with TTP and the state of Pakistan and the talks
between the US and Afghan Taliban?
RY: The Afghan Taliban
seem to enjoy a somewhat stronger position. They draw their legitimacy from
the fact that they have been in power in Afghanistan for six years. World
organisations, such as the UN and ICRC, have been dealing with them. Afghan
Taliban also justify their existence on the excuse that they are fighting
the foreign, non-Muslim enemy that ousted them from power and occupied
Afghanistan in 2001.
TNS: Maulana Samiul Haq
has hinted at a very important fact that the talks can only materialise when
the army and the political government are on the same page? Is that a
concern for you too? Where does the military stand on this?
RY: As I said earlier, the
army and the politicians have been on the same page in earlier such
attempts. We hope it would be the same this time. Military is a major
stakeholder in talks because it has been doing the fighting on the ground,
and has laid down lives. Let me also add that the assassination of TTP
deputy leader Waliur Rahman in a US drone strike on May 29 could delay or
even scuttle any chances of peace talks as he was seen as a moderate
compared to his colleague and was someone with whom talks could be held due
to his political background and past association with Maulana Fazlur
Rahman’s JUI-F. By killing him, the Americans have sent a strong message
as they did on a number of occasions in the past that they were opposed to
peace talks between the Pakistan government and Pakistani Taliban.
Even the cliché
that Pakistanis are yearning for peace through an end to the murderous
Taliban violence is an understatement. Peace was the underlying theme of the
2013 general elections. All parties promised peace and the main parties that
won at the center, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal
Areas — Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N, Imran Khan’s PTI, Munawar Hassan’s JI,
and the likely coalition partner Fazlur Rehman’s JUI — have said this
would be achieved through talks with the Taliban.
So, is this possible? Or
even desirable? Peace through talks is a seemingly benevolent and apparently
easy way of bringing a modicum of normalcy to Pakistan as opposed to the
concept of taking the war to the heart of Taliban in an attempt to
irreversibly undo them. But if this were really doable, then why couldn’t
a powerful government headed directly by the military (President General
Pervez Musharraf) and a secular coalition government (Asif Zardari’s PPP,
Asfandyar Wali’s ANP and Altaf Hussain’s MQM) able to do it in the
decade preceding the May 2013 elections? They all tried hard enough.
In the 10 years that
Taliban have bloodcurdlingly terrorised the country, at times overtly aided
by the money and skills of Al Qaeda, killing nearly 50,000 civilians and
soldiers, Pakistan has tried both talks and force to neutralise them. The
net result is that despite the at-times severe setbacks to its operational
capability, the Taliban still have a strong national footprint, aided by
many militant groups tolerated as policy by the state, in terms of their
ability to mount major attacks to devastating effect anywhere they want. In
the last five years alone, they’ve killed the likes of Benazir Bhutto and
Bashir Bilour as well as about 15 legislators, twice nearly killed Musharraf
and managed to get into the military headquarters and naval and air bases to
strike fatal blows.
So, what makes many think,
in particular PML-N and PTI, which have already been ‘greeted’ by the
Taliban with post-election strikes, that the Taliban will cease their
violence and make themselves redundant through talks? Do Nawaz Sharif and
Imran Khan really think Taliban are their friends just because they made it
clear to all and sundry before elections that they wanted PML-N and PTI in
power and PPP, ANP and MQM consigned to oblivion? When did the Taliban undo
their declared mission statement of seizing the state to enforce a caliphate
by abolishing democracy, the system through which Nawaz and Imran find
themselves in power with the mandate to bring peace?
There are so many ifs and
buts, and logistical nightmares, to talks — even if they happen — that
it makes the head spin. Who will lead the talks — the Nawaz government at
the center or the Imran government in the province? Their two parties are
sworn enemies. Can they talk to the Taliban together through a consensus
interlocutor? Then, who is the representative at the other end that can
offer ‘sovereign’ Taliban guarantees? And guarantees to whom — Nawaz
Sharif (the center) or Imran (the province)?
And talk to groups that
are formally outlawed by law without changing the constitution, or
de-proscribing them? Talks always mean compromise. Give and take. Or ‘muk-muka’,
as Imran calls it. What can Imran promise on behalf of the province? Or
Nawaz on behalf of the federation? Without the consent of the elephant in
the room — the military, which by force and default represents the state
(not the government) — which of the two leaders with the mandate of ending
terrorism and bringing peace promise concessions to the Taliban?
The bottom line is that
the Pakistani state lost thousands of kilometers of territory in various
swathes over the last decade to non-state actors. This is unprecedented in
modern history. That this happened after Pakistan went overtly nuclear poses
other fundamental questions about the nature of the state’s real
capability to operate as a functional sovereign but that’s a debate for
The Taliban and their
supporters continue to hold territory that is seen and used by the military
for their Afghanistan objectives. This is why there is no local independent
media in tribal areas that can report on what is really happening there.
This brings us to the
premise of the would-be compromise that the state/government (assuming Nawaz,
Imran and Kayani are somehow by miracle on the same page) is willing to
offer the Taliban. What is it that the Taliban want? Clearly, to hold on to
territory they are holding. To get a formal declaration by the state to
enforce Sharia in the tribal areas — an environment conducive to the
Taliban’s influence on the local populations that can help them stay
entrenched (what about the people’s right bartered away like this in
reward to militant groups refusal to be scared of the state).
To get promises that the
army, or paramilitary and civilian armed forces will not attack the Taliban
first? All of this aids the Taliban in keeping what they have, plus buying
time to consolidate and replenish their killing machine. A de-facto state
for non-state actors in a nuclear state! Incredible!
And what can the
state/government want from the Taliban? A halt to attacks on soldiers and
civilians? A laying down of arms? Acceptance of the Constitution of
Pakistan? Transformation of the Taliban into a political movement that can
make them a bona fide stakeholder in the state and government structures?
All of this that the state/government wants presupposes that the Taliban are
only interested in Pakistan and not Afghanistan. That they are interested in
populist politics and crave public support to serve them.
This would be
extraordinarily naïve. Both Baitullah Mehsud who clubbed various armed
groups into the Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and his successor
Hakimullah Mehsud, have often talked of representing Khorasan — the
greater region comprising parts of not just Afghanistan and Iran but also
Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. They have grander plans
than merely being restricted to Pakistan.
While the TTP is not a
monolithic unified entity, the Pakistan variety of Taliban see their
destinies intertwined with those of the Afghan Taliban and beyond with other
groups that see the future of the region lying in the geography of the
The Taliban in Pakistan,
and indeed in Afghanistan, have created structures that reflect facsimiles
of ‘normal’ states. They have a central council that serves as a policy
making and governing body to implement plans on territories that they either
control or have marked as need to be captured. That’s why they have local
amirs and regional amirs, even in areas they don’t control. Their mission
designs don’t evolve around electoral politics and public service but the
creation of a regional empire that subsumes several existing sovereign
states to serve as a nucleus of an eventual global caliphate. With such
grand plans, the Taliban are not going to be talked into becoming a
bad-looking JI or a grumpy JUI in Western Pakistan.
If talking is not an
option and fighting them has failed, what’s the answer? The answer is for
Pakistan to become a normal state by accepting the complete territorial and
political sovereignty of Afghanistan and to give up the impractical and
costly dream of ruling Kabul by proxy.
When Pakistan accorded
diplomatic recognition to the Taliban government in 1990s, the given raison
d etre was that history shows anyone who controls Kabul, controls
Afghanistan and we must respect this mandate. So, what’s stopping the
Pakistani establishment accepting the democratic and representative
government of Afghanistan led by Karzai, on the same principle, or whoever
succeeds him, now?
Islamabad cannot see the
Afghan Taliban as good and Pakistan Taliban as bad if they want to overcome
them. They are not groups but a mindset and a mission.
The Taliban will not
surrender or give up their dreams through talks alone. They can be tackled
partly by talks, partly by force and partly administratively if FATA becomes
a part of Pakistan under the same set of rights and laws for the rest of the
country. And if Pakistan stops presenting itself as a citadel of Islam. That
mission has clearly been hijacked by the Taliban. If Pakistan doesn’t want
the same level of sovereignty over its western border as it employs on its
eastern border, talks with Taliban will merely delay the eventual use of
force against them. But by then, it will become even costlier for Pakistan.
The News on
Sunday: Your position does not favour negotiations with the Taliban. This
despite the fact that most political parties have arrived at this
conclusion. What is your rationale for not taking the talks route when we
have examples from all over the world where the problem of terrorism has
been resolved on the negotiating table?
Zahid Hussain: It is not
whether we should talk to the Taliban, but what the conditions are. No
government negotiates with terrorists who refuse to give up violence and
challenge the writ of the state. The TTP’s offer for talks comes with
preconditions that include enforcement of its retrogressive political and
social agenda. It rejects Pakistani constitution and democracy. It justifies
killing of thousands of innocent Pakistani in suicide attacks and destroying
schools. It has declared war on Pakistani state and is engaged in fierce
battle with Pakistani military. There is no indication that the proscribed
terrorist outfit is willing to give up violence and restrict its activities
to the country’s constitutional parameters. The political parties are
supporting the talks with the Taliban either out of fear or because some of
them subscribe to its retrogressive world outlook. The Taliban not only
threaten Pakistan’s unity and its existence but is also dangerous for the
regional security and stability.
TNS: The Taliban track
record in honouring previous peace agreements in Fata and Swat is believed
to have been unsatisfactory. Yet, the pro-talks experts argue that
reconciliation with Taliban has not been sufficiently explored. Your view?
ZH: It is very clear that
the TTP is not interested in peace. The main reason for peace talk offer is
to gain legitimacy. Pakistani authorities have signed at least ten peace
deals in the past ten years, but all violated by them. The Taliban used
those agreements to gain time and space to reorganise itself. The last peace
deal in Swat in 2009 fell through after the militants advanced close to
Islamabad. They killed hundreds of political activists opposed to their
retrogressive rule. They closed down female education. That forced the
government to launch a military operation. More than two million people had
to leave their homes. It is completely wrong that reconciliation with the
Taliban was not fully explored. Do we want to go though the Swat experience
once again? Certainly not!
TNS: Should we assume
that, in your view, cracking down on the insurgents operating from
sanctuaries inside the Pakistan’s territories is the solution to the
ZH: I am not saying that
the military operation is the only solution to the militancy. But use of
force becomes necessary when other means fail. The military operation became
imperative after peace deals fail and the insurgents continue their attacks
on the security agencies. Besides, no country can allow its territory to be
used as sanctuaries for across the border attacks. The militants have also
been using Pakistani tribal areas to plot attacks on the Western countries
with grave consequence for Pakistan.
TNS: There has been a lot
of talk about talking from the position of strength or weakness. In your
view, can the state of Pakistan only negotiate with the Taliban from a
position of weakness, and the talks will only give them legitimacy or a
chance to regroup?
ZH: The military
operations since 2009 have driven out the Taliban from their strongholds of
Swat, South Waziristan, and other tribal areas. The setback has greatly
reduced the capacity of the Taliban to launch major terrorist attacks. But
it does not mean that the militants have been defeated. The attack on ANP
rallies in the election campaign shows that they are still capable of
spreading fear. The TTP’s offer for talks indicates that the militant
outfit and its allies want to buy some time to reorganise themselves. We
should be careful not to fall in the trap. The talks should be only
conducted after the militants agree to give up violence and accept the
country’s constitution. Any talks without these preconditions would be
taken as the weakness of the state.
TNS: Related to the
earlier question, do you have a problem with the agenda of talks, the quid
pro quo for both sides so to speak? What are your fears? Isn’t a ceasefire
good for the state of Pakistan, too, to be able to think and strategise?
ZH: The TTP is not willing
to a ceasefire. While offering peace negotiations it has continued terrorist
attacks. It targeted political parties which stood up against militant
violence. It called for the boycott of the elections declaring democracy
un-Islamic. We should not be under any illusion that the militants are
sincere in talking peace.
TNS: Maulana Samiul Haq
has hinted at a very important fact that the talks can only materialise when
the army and the political government are on the same page? Is that a
concern for you too? Where does the military stand on this?
ZH: Thousands of Pakistani
soldiers have given their lives fighting the insurgents and terrorists
threatening the security of our country. That supreme sacrifice cannot be
compromised. General Kayani has clearly stated that the war against
terrorism is our war. He also specified the preconditions for peace
negotiations. I think ultimately the civil and military leadership will be
on the same page in dealing with the militancy and terrorism. We all know
who Samiul Haq is. He certainly cannot deliver peace.
TNS: The pro-talk analysts
point to the fact that if the Americans can talk to the Afghan Taliban after
all their losses, why can’t we? What is your take?
ZH: It is a lame argument.
Americans are occupation forces and need to talk to the Afghan resistance
groups that could allow them a safe exit. But Pakistani Taliban is not
fighting against any occupation forces. What are the TTP’s demands which
are to be negotiated? Are we prepared to accept its demand to enforce its
twisted version of Sharia? And finally what about thousands of innocent
people who lost their lives in the suicide bombings? These are two
completely different situations.
TNS: The pro-talks side
builds its argument on the single premise —talk if the dividend is peace.
What do you think shall we lose in this process and why should we not avail
this chance, especially when the pro-talks political forces — PTI and PML-N
— have been voted into power?
ZH: How can they ensure
that negotiations could produce peace? Did peace deal in Swat bring peace or
more violence? Peace can only be achieved if the Taliban renounce violence
and accept the rule of law. Once
they do it there is no harm talking to them.