ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR - Taliban’s claim of slaying 23 Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel has torpedoed the peace parleys as government negotiators put off their Monday meeting with TTP-nominated team, and the civilian and the military leadership reportedly decided to launch a decisive action against the terrorists.
The meeting of the peace negotiators was cancelled on the directives of the prime minister, who told the government negotiators that such gruesome acts of terrorism could not be tolerated and that in the face of such terrorist activities the peace talks have become meaningless.
“The lives of our children are extremely precious,” he said in a meeting with Irfan Siddiqui and Maj (r) Amir on Monday morning. The PM said that the killing of the security personnel could not be allowed in the garb of negotiations. The terrorists through their negative tactics have sabotaged government efforts to negotiate peace, he added.
The peace process has gone into disarray just two weeks after the talks began, when Sunday night TTP claimed to have killed 23 FC men they had kidnapped in 2010.
A media report said that a gruesome video was released on Monday by the terrorists, showing beheaded bodies of FC men being thrown out of a pickup van. The report, quoting army sources, said 26 bodies of the martyred soldiers had been found near the Pak-Afghan border later in the day.
TTP Mohmand chapter chief Umar Khalid Khurasani in a letter posted on the social media had said the FC men had been killed to avenge the killing of their men in government custody in various parts of the country.
Spokesman for the main TTP group, Shahidullah Shahid had earlier declined to confirm the killings but said “it might be a reaction to the killing of our 23 comrades in Karachi and Nowshera”. The TTP spokesman alleged their under-custody members were being killed in the name of targeted operation. He claimed that 23 Taliban members had been killed during the ongoing dialogue process –15 in Nowshera and 7 in Karachi.
Sources said the government and the military leadership has decided in principle not to hold talks any further with the Taliban and started preparations for launching a decisive action against them. They said the civil and military leadership in a high-level meeting late Sunday night decided to launch operation in North Waziristan.
According to sources, the security forces are fully prepared for action in Waziristan and are waiting for a green signal to go after terrorists. During the meeting, the prime minister said no compromise would be made on national security and no concession would be made to the terrorists. The meeting reportedly decided that the security forces will not halt their action against terrorist elements. It was decided that ground and air attacks will be conducted against the terrorists.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister Irfan Siddiqui during their meeting informed the PM that the government committee would meet on Tuesday (today) to review the changed situation. Sources in government informed that the committee would again meet prime minister who would then take a ‘final decision’ on what exactly to do with the dialogue process.
Sources also said that now the voices in favour of military operation against Taliban have grown phenomenally in the echelons of power, as the supporters of peace through dialogue have no answers to the stepped-up terrorist activities by the TTP. The argument that TTP is a loose alliance of several dozen militant groups and the central leaders of the conglomeration have little hold on majority of these groups appears to be not holding water. Many a question are being asked about the use of talking to the so-called TTP shura leadership if it has no control or doesn’t exercise it over the smaller groups.
The meeting of government- and TTP-named negotiators was scheduled for Monday in Akora Khattak, home town of Samiul Haq, who heads the Taliban designated team. But the government negotiators, Irfan Siddiqui, Amir Khan, Rahimullah Yusufzai and Rustam Shah Mohmand met in Islamabad and cancelled the meeting which had one-point agenda of ceasefire.
After this development, Taliban-named team comprising Samiul Haq, Yousaf Shah and Prof Ibrahim Khan also held a meeting at Akora Khattak and expressed their concerns over the slaying of FC men and cancellation of the meeting. Speaking at a news conference there, Yousaf Shah said that they also condemned the Mohmand Agency incident but they will not go into details over the explanations provided by the TTP.
He said it’s been heard that the government has decided to conduct operation, adding that the problems will never be resolved through force. He said military operation is not an option to restore peace in the country. He said the government shouldn’t stop the process of dialogue, and that cancellation of Monday’s meeting was disappointing.
In the same press conference, Prof Ibrahim said their committee was a neutral body acting as a bridge between the government and the TTP. He said the negotiators from both side should have met and discussed the issue. “It is sad that the government negotiators have considered us as TTP representatives and refused to meet us; we don’t consider ourselves separate from the government representatives,” he said.
Yousuf Shah in his media talk claimed there were positive signals coming from the Taliban side and they were close to ceasefire and the government should have met them. He said that Sami would soon contact Taliban and then Taliban negotiating committee would soon issue a formal statement over the attack.
TTP’s main spokesman Shahidullah, who conceded that killing of FC men by their associates might have been a reaction to the killing of captured Taliban, said that such actions by the government during talks were unbearable and harming the dialogue process. Claiming that TTP was serious and sincere in holding talks he alleged the government was making the dialogue process difficult. He said they have been thinking about the declaration of ceasefire for making the dialogue a success, but “we are reluctant because of the government actions”.
A security official said the TTP allegation of killing of terrorists in the security forces’ custody was a baseless propaganda to justify their brutal acts of terrorism. He said the killing of policemen in Karachi, FC personnel in Mohmand Agency and other continuing acts of terrorism testify that Taliban were insincere and they were advancing their bloody agenda in the garb of peace process.
In a statement issued by PM Office on Monday, the prime minister said incidents like that of martyrdom of FC personnel in Mohmand Agency cast negative impact on peace talks. “Pakistan can’t afford bloodshed anymore,” he added. Paying rich tributes to the sacrifices of the martyrs‚ he said the government initiated the dialogue process with good intentions in the light of the decisions of All Parties Conference (APC); however‚ the process is sabotaged whenever we reach an encouraging point. He said that it was highly regrettable situation and the entire nation was grieved over it.