As both parties gear up for another round of talks, the debate surrounding whether the negotiations should or should not take place becomes moot. The end of the ceasefire that never was, the continuation of attacks by the TTP and the army’s retaliation that are all somehow part of the process notwithstanding, the government must now revise its approach to the negotiations, if they are to take away any positives at all from the charade. The process of talks has been ongoing since September last year, with nothing to show for it. One way to look at things that can be done differently this time, is assessing the situation through a prism of three “C’s”; Clarity, Confidence, Control.

First and foremost, the government needs to establish some coherency. There must be clarity and cohesion within its own institutions so that there are no contradictory stances between the interior ministry, the Prime Minister and the armed forces. This can only be brought about if some base level consensus is reached between the internal branches to keep each other in the loop. They must communicate. The Prime Minister and the armed forces are not used to this, but now that everybody is on board for talks (however reluctantly), they must uphold the democratic principles they claim to hold dear and defer to each other before putting serious proposals forward. Secondly, taking real control will be central to a better negotiation process. The TTP attacks wherever it wishes and rejects the demands of the government; all the state can do, is retaliate. Instead, the state must mobilise, get every resource at its disposal, and be aware it is dealing with a cold blooded enemy. A full-blown operation is not really on the cards yet and the TTP knows this. It must not feel this is the case. The threat of action must be real, and that can only happen if the government takes charge. Any demands that the government wants met, such as the release of hostages taken by the Taliban must be accepted before listening to counter-offers by the TTP. The armed forces must be on the same page, and the militants must be aware of this.

Lastly, this time around, the government must appear to be confident. Perceptions go a long way in negotiations. No government can hope to gain its victories from a guerrilla group that dictates its terms unabashedly, as the state patters timidly behind in tone and image. The government must dignify its decision by standing to task, and it must civilise the process by playing into the dominator narrative, for the public and the militants sitting across the table.