After the momentous initiative of mediated dialogue between the Army and the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), the talks seem to have broken down as both sides seem to have hit an impasse.
A lot of headway has been made with major decisions like the abolition of the Watan Card, curfews, better treatment at check-posts, ending restrictions on political gatherings, development projects; all of which point to an acknowledgement of the grievances of local tribesmen and progress on the demands. Where the PTM’s five-point charter of demands has been accepted and efforts are underway to address them, it seems that in cognisance of the gaining momentum of its movement, PTM has extended its vision, aiming for higher-level interaction, and adopting a harsher rhetoric. The Army in turn has stiffened its demeanour in giving in to further demands, encouraging the KPK government to step in as a Jirga, a move that might allay the escalating tensions if the PTM chooses to make use of it.
It remains a fact that the PTM adopting a more aggressive approach through the talks could stand to hurt the Pakhtun cause. Where the movement gained impetus due to its very nature of quiet tangibility as a collective voice, it loses much of its potency if that voice turns into a petulant holler of added demands as previous ones are conceded.
The PTM’s distrust of the military is deep-rooted; however it should be set aside in favour of continued negotiations. Where the two sticking points– the leftover mines and the missing persons– are both issues with deeper nuances, continued dialogue might facilitate a programme to address them. The widening gap between the Army and the PTM leadership comes as a consequence of deep mistrust and an abrupt overturning of the status quo. It is to be hoped that both sides can tone down their inherent tendencies of wariness and suspicion to reach a consensus that can afford the people their basic rights and dignities.