“There is only one step from the sublime

to the ridiculous.”

–Napoleon

The present government in an effort to achieve peace with the banned TTP outfit seems to bend over backwards. To show their seriousness they nominated four members of a negotiating team, all known sympathizers of the Taliban.

The government failed to understand that the committee it was nominating should represent all shades of opinion and not only the extremist views that exist among various groups and some political parties. Secondly, the negotiations were expected to provide legitimacy to the Taliban who have indulged in criminal atrocities not only against the security personnel but also against innocent civilians of this country. One of the members of this committee Mr Irfan Siddiqui has no more a status than a personal servant of the Sharifs, the other Major (rtd.) Aamir has a checkered past and as such should have never qualified for this job. The third Mr Rustam Shah represents Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf while the fourth Mr Raheem ullah can be considered as the only bonafide member who stands on merit.

In response the Taliban nominated their own committee which includes Maulana Sami ul Haq who will negotiate on behalf of the Taliban and that includes the enforcement of Shariat which if considered in totality turns out to be a joke played on the revered religion of Islam keeping in view the past history of Maulana. The other member nominated by the Taliban is Maulana Abdul Aziz of the Lal Masjid fame therefore the less said about him the better. Mufti Kafayat ullah and Imran Khan who were also nominated by the Taliban refused to represent the defunct TTP.

On top of this at present nobody has the answer as to who will guarantee the implementation of an agreement (if any) is reached between the committee nominated by the government and the members who would be representing the Taliban. While a vast majority of the people of this country who do not agree with either the Shariat of the Taliban or their method of enforcing it. They will have no representative on either of the two committees, it becomes clear that the chances of success for these negotiations is at best extremely slim. For example the Taliban have laid down certain pre-conditions for the talks as if it was the victorious party and have demanded the release of more than 4000 Taliban captured by the security forces some of who have been awarded death sentences by the competent courts of the country. They were also demanding undisclosed amounts of money as compensation for what they call the losses suffered by them, an end to the drone attacks and the withdrawal of the Pakistan army from certain areas of FATA and other tribal agencies. The government on its part has vaguely hinted that negotiations with the Taliban can only be held within the parameters of the country’s constitution and that a cease fire and laying down of arms should form the basis of negotiations with the Taliban.

One wonders as to what would happen if the government insists on these conditions and the Taliban insist on their preconditions then the talks will degenerate into one or several rounds of a circus without any tangible result. Many detractors of the present arrangement strongly feel that both the Taliban and the government could be buying time to consolidate their positions and the ultimate result for peace could only be achieved if the army goes whole hog after the militants. Another interesting development that has come out of the present situation is that Mr Imran Khan who was wearing a cloak of modern liberalism has been torn to shreds when he was nominated by the Taliban to represent them in the negotiations with the government. While this will have a definite impact on the political role that Mr Imran Khan will play in future in this country it could seriously dent his image among the international community where his acceptability will now have to undergo serious scrutiny. This could be the reason why the chairman of Tehreek-i-Insaaf has refused to represent the Taliban by lamely coming out with an excuse that his party would do everything possible for the success of these negotiations. Having said this, there should be no doubt that the entire country wants peace to return to their country but do not on the same time want to pay an exorbitant price to the achieve this goal.

Even before the negotiations took off a bomb on a railway track damaged at least eight bogies resulting in loss of life. As if this was not enough a bomb exploded in a hotel in Peshawar killing several innocent civilians; not a good beginning to the peace talks one must admit. Therefore the onus will now be on the government to clear the confusion and let the people know in a transparent manner as to what it was willing to concede as far as the demands of the Taliban are concerned and in case their demands were unreasonable. The government must then show its resolve to apply all methods that are available in their command to enforce them to achieve the illusive objective of peace in this country. The Taliban will be at present in a win-win position because they have already succeeded in dividing the country into various blocks where some religious political parties and self-styled Muftis of Islam are more than willing to extend a helping hand to the forces of extremism and hate.

Whatever the outcome, the government must clearly spell out the time frame that it is willing to provide for these talks to either succeed or fail, which very much seems likely.

The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist.

Emai:zarnatta@hotmail.com