The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has responded to the government’s naming of a committee to negotiate with it, by naming a committee of its own. While the government named a relatively neutral committee, the TTP has nominated political leaders. PTI Chief Imran Khan is the most prominent, though he is not the only party chief, the other being JUI(S) Amir Maulana Samiul Haq. Mufti Kifayatullah of the JUI(F) and Professor Ibrahim of the Jamaat Islami have been selected to represent their parties, but are not their heads. The only member without political affiliation is Maulana Abdul Aziz, though he being the head of Lal Masjid, Islamabad, has its own dark significance. It should be noticed that the TTP has not named any members, only sympathisers. It has also confirmed that the political parties which looked favourably on them did indeed do so.

Perhaps the first question that arises is because of Imran Khan’s response that he was not asked. That raises the question of whether the other members or parties were consulted or not. Another procedural issue was highlighted by the government members meeting with the Prime Minister on Friday, when they presumably received instructions on how far they could go in the negotiations. The question thus naturally arises as to how the TTP will give instructions to the negotiators, and whether the committee members will meet TTP chief Maulana Fazlullah before they actually begin talking to the government side.

At the same time, the members of the negotiating team, if they accept the mandate, cannot be expected to abandon their own political interests, especially the party chiefs. At the same time, they should be aware that a heavy responsibility has been placed on their shoulders. Not only have they to bring their own side into the mainstream of national life, but they will also have to fend off accusations that they share the TTP’s ideology, which rejects participating in politics. The committee members must be clear that their main task is to bring about a national reconciliation, and ensure that the terms are set for the Taliban to return to the national mainstream.

It now seems that the stage has been set for negotiations. So far, progress has taken place in public, from the time the government evolved a consensus on talks at the all-parties conference on the issue. The time has therefore arrived for the negotiations to begin in earnest. They should take place quickly if they are to be result-oriented. And that orientation is a sine qua non for their success.