Pakistan’s pusillanimous leadership is pushing for peace talks with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The TTP responds with fresh atrocities committed with frightening regularity. The state is quick to forget the TTP’s long history of murder and mayhem and treat it as a legitimate partner in peace. The TTP offers ‘conditional’ peace talks and steadfastly refuses to renounce the use of terrorism and other acts of violence.
The TTP message is loud and clear: surrender to our demands, or we will not let you live in peace. Desperate for peace, the state keeps overlooking the TTP’s violations, suggesting in effect that it is willing to pay any price for a final settlement. The state’s military power is not respected or feared by its internal adversaries. With every new concession, the TTP grows more certain that the state is weak and on the run – and that hitting it even harder would bring even greater returns.
[quote]With every new concession, the TTP grows more certain that the state is weak[/quote]
In short order, the state is agreeing to virtually recognise that the territories under the TTP control remain so. It is allowing that the TTP assume total control over the people in those territories. Perhaps the next step is to accept the TTP’s potential demand to deal with it as a sovereign power. This is appeasement on a grand scale when it is clear that the TTP’s intentions are far from peaceful. How can Pakistan still imagine that a ‘negotiating process’ with the TTP can ever lead to peace? After 10 years of the TTP’s terror campaign that has brought about the slaughter of more Pakistanis than any of the country’s external conflicts, it should be clear that negotiating with the TTP will only lead to more bloodshed. For the TTP and its associates, negotiations are a tool of war — a mechanism for harvesting their gains from terror and violence. They do not seek negotiations in order to stop the killing; they kill in order to make their negotiations more fruitful.
The pro-TTP propaganda describes terrorists as well-meaning, heroic tribesmen with a sense of honour who have been wronged by the state. Instead, the TTP operates like calculating murderers with a dark and dangerous irrationality and fanaticism carefully hidden in populist anti-establishment rhetoric. Its aims are clearly authoritarian, anti-democratic, militaristic and expansionist. It seems oblivious of humane considerations and inhibitions and will continue to break solemnly sworn treaties without scruples. The TTP tactics involve surprise, cunning and audacity when attacking enemies of superior strength. It has a capacity to continually recover and rise up afresh, indoctrinated in the purpose and glories of terror. It is capable of extreme acts of cruelty to intimidate and control and break the morale of its adversaries. The TTP has cleverly used past peace deals to regroup and continue its fight against the state.
It has been said that the character of individuals and nations determines their destiny. Pakistan is at war today because it refused to see that terrorists bent on establishing control by violent means can never be appeased, only defeated. In so doing, it emboldened the murderers – and achieved not peace, but its opposite. There is little point making one concession after another if the TTP’s hostility seems undimmed. Instead, the state should abandon appeasement and go to war until the TTP unequivocally renounces terror and violence. Unless Pakistan demolishes the TTP’s murder machine and shuts down its hellish ‘martyrdom’ cult, it will only be a matter of time before suicide bombers are detonating themselves in densely populated centres around the country once again. Regretfully, the festering issue of domestic terrorism will not be settled by resolutions or majority votes, but by blood and iron.
It is understandable that Pakistanis long for a more normal existence, one that did not involve the heavy burden of domestic terrorism. But this is not the time for peace missions and negotiations. Embarking on a ‘peace process’ will only elevate the TTP to heights of power and respect they had never before known. As a precondition to any talks, the state should demand that the TTP lay down its arms and accept the state and the constitution of Pakistan. If not, the TTP must be advised in no uncertain terms that the state will end the war by fighting its way to a decisive victory. The state should crush the TTP’s terrorist network and demilitarise the territories under its control. Only then will Pakistanis be free. And only then will it be possible for them to detoxify their poisoned and hate-filled society, led by decent and responsible leaders, and join in crafting, at long last, a genuine and lasting peace.
Sadly it seems Pakistan has lost the plot by extending the olive branch. One can expect a renewed vigour from these forces now that they have been allowed time to regroup and consolidate. It does not augur well for the future in a region which sees so much violence on a daily basis that in a couple of years democracy will be in peril.