It seems the cat was set among the pigeons by the government’s naming of a committee to negotiate with the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP), because the TTP’s own attempts to name a committee has been marred by withdrawals. Not only did the PTI decide on Monday that its chief Imran Khan was not to accept the TTP’s nomination, but the JUI(F) advisory committee also decided against participation, thus ensuring that its Maulana Kifatullah, did not join. There are reports that the Jamaat-e-Islami is considering withdrawing Professor Ibrahim from the committee. The other three members of the committee, who were either consulted beforehand, or did not mind being named with permission, held their first meeting the same day. The TTP seems to be having second thoughts, and has named a 10-member monitoring committee. All that is needed is for the government to get in on the action, and nominate a monitoring committee of its own. This flurry of committee-making and their meetings has thrown up a previously unforeseen danger, that of more attention being focused on the composition of the respective committees, rather than that of what the committees have actually achieved.

The naming by the TTP of a monitoring committee might reflect the difficulty it has in negotiating, but it also throws into the doubt the ability of the truncated committee to speak on behalf of the TTP. This means that the talks may well be a non-starter because the government committee does not know whether the TTP trusts the committee it has itself named. It must be noted that the government will only be talking to the negotiators, not the monitors.

The TTP revived the talks offer, which led the government to name a negotiating committee. If it is not showing signs of distraction, it is very casual. It bodes ill not just for their success, but even for the talks being taken seriously. The government is looking to bring peace from these talks, but though it does not seem at fault for the confusion, it stands to suffer the most if these talks are to dissolve into nothingness.

Though it is incumbent on both sides to make any talks succeed, the government should impress on the TTP committee members that this is not the time to play games. The TTP has scored success enough in bringing the government to the negotiating table. It should not be allowed to press its luck any further than it has done. Most of all, it must name negotiators who are willing, so that the government knows who to talk to.