Conflict and violence is no doubt a bar to the prosperity of any mundane civilization. However, Peace and stability if achieved in its true spirit can act as a catalyst in leading a society towards the zenith of success and prosperity. Gandhi says that “It is my conviction that nothing enduring can built on violence” and indeed many of us will agree with him that conflict or war is not a solution to any kind of mundane issue rather its dialogue or reconciliation which results in a sustainable and lasting peace. Unfortunately during the last one decade particularly after 9/11, Pakistan has been facing the dilemma of conflict and militancy. The government authorities, after 10-year war, have now decided to initiate peace talks with the various militant groups under the umbrella of the Tehreek-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Although the importance of peace talks in achieving sustainable peace cannot be denied but, unfortunately, if we look back at the past we will get to know that almost all the agreements and peace talks with the militant groups, particularly with the TTP, were either failed or breached by the TTP. The militants, in fact, used the peace deals as a tool to regroup and strengthen their militant network.
For instance, the Shakai Accord, which was inked with Naek Muhammad and the military government in 2004 in South Waziristan but it only lasted for few days. According to the accord, the government authorities agreed upon granting amnesty to Naek Muhammad while releasing the militants taken into prison during the military operation and to pay compensations for the causalities and collateral damages. In return, the militants agreed to impede their activities against the state institutions and to abstain from interference in Afghanistan. However, the agreement was breached by the militants few days later when Naek Muhammad reiterated his allegiance with Al Qaida.
Likewise, on several occasions peace deals were signed with the militants to resolve the dilemma of militancy in the region. In 2005, the Sararoga peace deal was signed with Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan while in 2008 another peace deal was inked with Lasker-e-Islam and Ansar-Ul-Islam in Khyber Agency. In 2009, the Swat agreement was signed with Sufi Muhammad and Fazal Ullah, the current head of the TTP but unfortunately none of these peace deals lasted for long time and every time the TTP was first to break the peace accords, coercing the government to conduct military operation.
Despite the failure of peace deals in the past, the PML-N government decided to initiate peace talks with the TTP. The decision to pursue peace talks with the militants was not only bolstered by all the political parties in the All Parties Conference (APC) but it was also welcomed by the tribal people in particular and masses at large.
The peace talks although seem very productive in mitigating militancy in the region and according to the mass media the security situation has improved during the past few months, particularly after the announcement of ceasefire by the TTP. But, in reality, these peace talks will prove to be futile and will amplify militancy in the region. The core reason that can lead to the failure of peace talks is firstly the reluctance of some of the splinter groups of the TTP like Ahrar-ul-Hind to resolve the issue through dialogue. Even if the peace talks are successful, which have not yet started formally, there is high probability that the militants will breach the peace accord. Therefore, the willingness of all the factions of the TTP is vital in the peace process. For instance a peace accord was done with Hafiz Gulbahader in 2006 in North Waziristan Agency and both the parties are abiding by the accord up till now as Hafiz Gulbahader group was ready to resolve the issue through peace deal.
Secondly, although both the stakeholders have constituted committees to start the peace process but, up till now, the peace process is at confidence building level. The government committee has once met with the TTP Spokesperson Shahid ullah Shadin near Miranshah, North Waziristan but the government officials and TTP leadership are yet to be meeting to formally start the peace process which seems unlikely to happen as Fazul Ullah, the current head of the TTP, is at an unknown location in Afghanistan.
In case the peace talks formally start or become successful, the question to ponder here is, to what extent the government of Pakistan can compromise? Will the government of Pakistan grant amnesty to all of the militants who have killed thousands innocent civilians and Pakistani soldiers or will the government be able to ensure its writ in FATA? This seems unlikely to happen as the militants are enjoying unlimited authority in the tribal belt and will not be ready to disarm and give up their authority.
For instance, due to the military operation in the past the militant network in Bajaur, Orakzai, Kurram, Khyber and Momand Agency have weakened but they have strong hold over South and North Waziristan. According to the sources, Bajaur Agency is almost clear with few militants on the bordering areas of Mohmand Agency. Likewise in Khyber Agency, the TTP has also lost strength and operating only in some areas of Tirah while in Kurram the TTP is only present in Jogi area of central Kurram and in Orakzai they are limited to few areas. However, they have strong hold in South and North Waziristan. This means that the Taliban can demand control over these two agencies. So will the government compromise and will allow TTP to control these two agencies?
Thirdly, there are no clear terms and conditions which are pre-requisites for any talks to be successful. For instance, the TTP spokesman Shahid Ullah Shahid has several times demanded from the incumbent government to release the imprisoned non-combatant militants i.e. women and children while the government denies the imprisonment of such non-combatant militants. On the other hand, the government is demanding the TTP to release civilians who were abducted by the Taliban i.e. Ali Haider Gilani, son of ex-Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani, and Shahbaz Taseer etc. But according to sources, Haider Gilani and Shahbaz Taseer were abducted by Al-Qaida not the Taliban. Moreover, government authorities have already released around 19 Taliban combatants but up till now none of the civilians kidnapped by the militants have been released and neither have they announced the extension of ceasefire. This clearly shows the reluctance of the TTP to pursue the peace process.
According to FRC sources, the claim of both the parties cannot be met and will ultimately result in a military operation against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. However, the peace talks will undoubtedly benefit the TTP allowing them to regroup and strengthen their militant networks. As a consequence, the militant activities are expected to exacerbate particularly in the settled areas of Pakistan. Moreover, during the past three to four months, the militants got unprecedented media coverage which they never got during the past ten years. This will further help them in propagating and legitimatizing their jihadi agenda and will certainly help them in recruiting more jihadis.
The Author is a Senior Research Fellow at Fata Research Center