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Why Pakistan is on the verge of a new civil war

The collapse of Taliban peace talks is feared to push the country into a fresh wave of insurgency

Mansoor Jafar

Published: Updated:

Pakistan Air Force jets began bombing suspected Taliban hideouts this week killing dozens of suspect militants, after the peace negotiations between Pakistani government and Taliban groups stalled, as expected, at a crucial stage with a series of mysterious killings for which both sides accused each other.

The much-awaited military operation against Taliban began while the negotiation process did not even properly take off and the negotiation committees from both sides were still at the stage of defining the parameters and the conditions for the talks. Much before the start of negotiations process, there were several media reports citing unnamed officials that the talks were eyewash for buying time to finalize the arrangements for military operation which had already been decided.

The collapse of Taliban peace talks is feared to push the country into a fresh wave of insurgency

Mansoor Jafar

Honestly, I support the view of those informed circles inside Pakistani authorities who say the government was not serious in the negotiations and the decision to launch military operation to wipe out the last remaining leaders of Soviet-war veterans (or Taliban) from their stronghold in North Waziristan had already been taken months ago. The operation was delayed only because the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was reluctant to take the blame for hasty use of military force and was in search for strong justification for the risky decision that was bound to create more insurgency and bloodshed in the already war-torn country.

There were some reports saying this time the U.S. drone attacks would not be used to subvert the negotiations process or any agreement reached with Taliban. Instead, some internal means would be used to fail the talks process or violate the agreement thus reached upon.

Half-hearted peace negotiations

This fact was evident from the half-hearted peace negotiations without proper agenda. Besides, both negotiation committees were exposed to unrestrained access of media, throwing round the clock volley of questions loaded with political agendas goading Taliban for everything else except the modus operandi for restoring peace. With the media kept playing up Taliban’s dislike for country’s secular constitution adapted from the 1935 British India Act with some modifications, the peace negotiations were already doomed.

As expected, the negotiations crashed before taking off within few weeks after the both sides nominated their negotiations teams during the last week of 2013. Despite that both sides were calling for halt in hostilities against each other, the ongoing military operation, which were named targeted surgical strikes in media, was not stopped. The media kept holding a public trial of Taliban negotiation team members, showing undated video clips from undisclosed locations, showing TTP spokesmen threatening to boycott the negotiations if it were held under the constitution of Pakistan. On the other hand, the government ministers kept accusing TTP of not serious in talks as they were not acknowledging the constitution of the country.

One of the key demands of Taliban committee was that government must call army to cease fire to allow the talks process to take off the ground. Amidst this confusion, Taliban accused government of secret custodial killing its members detained in various jails. A few days after that an undated video clip on social media showed TTP leaders with the chopped heads of 23 soldiers of Pakistan’s paramilitary force, Frontier Constabulary (FC), who were in their custody since 2010.

Fresh wave of insurgency and lawlessness

The surfacing of pictures showing dead FC men caused a media uproar against Taliban across the country and the government ministers, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Pervaiz Rasheed announced that talks could not be continued any further. Meanwhile Pakistani jets also bombed certain cities in settled areas like Hangu in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province outside the tribal areas, claiming to have killed dozens of Taliban members. It was followed by the assassination of a pro-Pakistan TTP leader Asmatullah Shaheen inside the troubles tribal region.

The military operation against senior Taliban leaders is feared to push the country into a fresh wave of insurgency and lawlessness. Many retired military generals expressed fears that it was a trap to entangle Pakistan Army into one of the worst terrains in the world against the most feared fighters. They said the combined armies of 48 developed countries armed with sophisticated weaponry had badly failed to overpower such fighters inside Afghanistan during the last 12 years.

In media reports, these retired military generals and some political quarters have expressed their fear that weakening the Army would only benefit the enemies of Pakistan, especially those hostile armies outside its borders. They alleged that the entire plan to engage Pakistan army with Taliban was part of a Great Game which should allow the international coalition could use the civil war as a pretext to justify any adventurism to neutralize country’s nuclear program and nuclear arms, on the pretext that they might fall into the hands of Taliban.

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Mansoor Jafar is Editor of Al Arabiya Urdu based in Islamabad. He can be reached via Twitter: @mansoorjafar

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.