ONLY a nave optimist would have thought that the government's peace negotiations with the Tehrik-e-Taliban of Pakistan, which broke down on Saturday, would be an easygoing affair: that the TTP, which had been responsible for terrorist attacks in different parts of the country including, according to official claims, the fatal targeting of PPP Chairperson Benazir Bhutto, would lay down its arms and stop militancy altogether; and that the government would withdraw its forces from the troubled Waziristan and other places Baitullah Mehsud, the TTP leader, had named and let him take care of the troublesome foreign elements. A realist, however, would have foreseen the obvious sticking points: on the one hand, the TTP's vow that even if a peace deal was struck with the Pakistan government, it would not feel bound to discontinue the "real jehad", which is to extend all help to the Pushtun brethren across the border with the purpose of ousting the US and NATO occupation forces; and, on the other, the government's reservations in withdrawing its troops unless there were sufficient guarantees that the peace accord would not be used by the militants to regroup and strengthen themselves - the recurring American and Afghan fear about such deals - only the peaceable foreigners would be allowed to stay in the region, the militants among them handed over to the Pakistan authorities or expelled, and the TTP would not do anything to create trouble in Afghanistan. The new administration, though preoccupied with concern about country's internal political matters, including the judges' issue and holding the coalition together, had, nevertheless, started talks with the TTP through a jirga. The TTP spokesman has, however, quoted Baitullah Mehsud as saying that they could not continue to negotiate with the government since it does not seem to be sincere about the withdrawal of troops from the tribal areas. As traditionally the tribal region has been ruled with a mixture of freedom and control, the government should offer to keep the minimum possible strength of forces needed to help the paramilitary constabulary to maintain law and order. Mehsud must understand the critical nature of the current situation, resume negotiations, agree to prevent any militant manifestations of feelings and accede to the government's other demands. A peace deal that encompasses these imperatives would automatically preclude the possibility of the regrouping of the militants, which Afghanistan as well as the US claim had happened during the previous peace accords to the detriment of the NATO operation in Afghanistan.