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Pakistan still dilly-dallying on crushing the Taliban

Three months into the inconclusive dialogue process, the Taliban and the Pakistani government are still far from a conclusion

Mansoor Jafar

Published: Updated:

Three months into the inconclusive dialogue process, the Taliban and the Pakistani government are still oscillating between pushing talks to a decisive position or launching a final military operation to crush the Taliban-led militancy in the country.

On the other hand, there is a growing consensus among different sections of society that the Taliban are a becoming a threat to the very existence of the state. Still, the ruling party lacks any clarity of thought among its ranks on how to eliminate the menace of terrorism that is eating away at the very fabric of Pakistani society.

The decade of instability, including blasts, drone attacks and targeted killings, has thrown Pakistani people deep into a grave sense of insecurity as nearly one hundred thousand people, including security personnel and terrorists, have so far been killed. The growing sense of insecurity has generated a strange kind of sadism and numbness among the people; they have become desensitized to the everyday killings as if it is some kind of routine affair in the country.

Strangely, the people have now stopped questioning the indifference and disinterest displayed by the rulers for the loss of innocent lives on daily basis. Even the media now seems to have lost interest in posing the basic question as to why the rulers were hesitating to adopt a clear and well-thought -out strategy to stop the bloodshed. The ruling and opposing politicians, as well as the members of civil and military bureaucracy, are all sitting behind security cordons and just issuing statements consisting of meaningless rhetoric.

Delicate politics

About the hesitation displayed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sahrif in launching the final military operation, the leaders of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League argue that in case of an all-out military operation in the tribal region, the main brunt of Taliban backlash would be faced by the provincial government of the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province. Therefore, the prime minster wanted to take the provincial government headed by the opposition’s Pakistan Tehrik Insaf (PTI) into confidence before going for the final kill.

That is why the prime minister is now displaying a placating attitude towards PTI chief Imran Khan, known for openly opposing the option of a military operation against the Taliban. The PTI had held a sit-in on the NATO supply route for over two months until last week when the supply-line from the KpK province remained cut off and supplies were channeled into Afghanistan from an alternative route via Baluchistan. Nawaz Sharif also held a surprise meeting with Imran Khan recently, paying a visit to his house.

Pakistan needs to enhance its security apparatus. Islamabad could seek U.S. help in establishing an institution based on the U.S. Homeland Security Department

Mansoor Jafar

With the U.S.-led NATO forces preparing to leave Afghanistan later this year, the threat of the Taliban and al-Qaeda regaining strength to take over the country becomes a reality with every passing day. The current leadership of the Taliban is quite different from that of the last decade as its ultimate goal is to establish an Islamic Emirate by merging Pakistan and Afghanistan into a single state. As they don’t acknowledge the Durand Line (the unmarked border between Pakistan and Afghanistan drawn by the British colonists), it is feared that the thrust of the Taliban from post-U.S. Afghanistan could easily penetrate into the Pakistani tribal region.

The indecisiveness in dealing with the Taliban by the political government is making the security institutions of Pakistan become restless. The whispers from the officers of defense agencies to media shows they were fully prepared and anxious to thrash the Taliban but waiting for the official nod from the political government. These officers are also concerned for the sacrifices of security personnel being rendered over the decade, besides those of the common citizens in this half-hearted battle being led by the government.

Facing a serious threat

The military officials have indicated that the country was facing a serious threat from the extremists and if this threat was not quickly neutralized it could cause serious damage to the government, security agencies and those involved in the dialogue process with the Taliban.

Recently, the government replaced its negotiation committee which was three months into talks with the Taliban. The new four member team comprises three Pushto-speaking former bureaucrats hailing from the KpK province, while the fourth is the secretary of PM secretariat Fawad Hasan Fawad. Of the remaining three members Rustam Shah Mohmand is the only member retained from the previous committee. The remaining two are Habibullah Khattak and Arbab Arif, both serving secretaries of the government.

The all-bureaucratic negotiation team raised many eyebrows in the country regarding the chances of its success. Human history of political dialogues is devoid of any example where bureaucrats successfully bring about any resolution to any political dispute. The bureaucrats are trained to carry out official policies and are not capable of exercising political vision and freedom to resolve any political dispute. It is believed that the second negotiation team is bound to fail, creating more of a political impasse.

Imran Khan has probably judged this eventuality and brought a significant change in his stance by supporting the military operation against those Taliban members who do not lay down arms. Previously, he had been emphasizing that the U.S. war, which General (retired) Pervez Musharraf brought into the Pakistani territories, pushed our army to fight against our own citizens.

Past objectives

In the past, the underlining objective of all agreements with the Taliban was to divide their collective strength. When Army struck an agreement with the Taliban in Swat, it was also busy in operations against other Taliban groups in other tribal areas. However, this dual strategy was the main reason why those agreements, and the simultaneous military operations, failed.

The recent increase in the country’s defense budget and increasing statements from military analysts declaring the war to crush the Taliban militancy as “our own war” suggest that the government might have decided to go for the final kill of the Taliban threat. Pakistan needs to enhance its security apparatus. Islamabad could seek U.S. help in establishing an institution based on the pattern of the U.S. Homeland Security Department. It will reduce pressure upon the traditional armed forces and they could concentrate upon their prime job of defending the borders and work free from the political influence.

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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.