At approximately 9 a.m. on Monday morning, Islamabad awoke to a largely unfamiliar tragedy. Four gunmen entered a District Courthouse and after initially throwing grenades, proceeded to fire indiscriminately at the fleeing crowd, killing eleven people and critically injuring twenty-five others amongst them sessions Judge Rafaqat Awan, who had only last year rejected a petition to file a murder case against former President Pervez Musharraf due to his involvement in the attack on the Red Mosque. If anything, the fact that the attack occurred in Islamabad - a city that has so far avoided the brunt of the widespread militancy sweeping the country - is surprising. However, the fact that the attack comes only two days after a month-long ceasefire agreement between the TTP and the Government is in line with recent history. The Taliban have immediately moved to distance themselves from the incident with their spokesperson claiming that no one under the umbrella of the TTP would have dared to carry out such an attack. But why should we believe them? The incident should incite suspicion, not blank faced confusion. It only serves to provide further reason to doubt the control of the TTP over the operations carried out by its rogue elements (not to mention apparent insincerity towards any peace efforts). The government, rather than outlining a clear policy, have instead proceeded to take a reactionary approach in their dealings with the Taliban, alternating between peace talks and confrontation at a frequency dictated primarily by the TTP’s agenda at any given point in time.

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This attack, if nothing else, reiterates the importance of a clearly defined policy for dealing with the Taliban. The ceasefire should not serve as a window for respite, instead as a final opportunity to reach a conclusive agreement as this is a matter which simply cannot be allowed to drag on. The Government with a demonstration of their ability to hurt the Taliban have taken a positive stance, but in order for it to succeed, they need to continue to negotiate from a position of strength. Failing that, take away the carrot, and beat them with the stick.