As the government attempts to ‘revive’ the negotiations process with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), security personnel deployed in FATA and elsewhere continue to be targeted by terrorists. In the most recent attack which took place on Thursday morning in Miranshah, North Wazirstan, at least 9 FC personnel were martyred and several injured when an IED exploded near their convoy. In another attack, one more security personnel lost his life after a military checkpost came under attack in South Waziristan. During a time when the civilian-military relationship is being viewed with considerable scepticism owing to different factors including the trial of Pervez Musharraf, the Geo-ISI controversy and the democratic government’s attempts to gain encroached space, such incidents are bound to increase pressure on Nawaz Sharif’s government to act. In the absence of a comprehensive policy, the military can neither go forward nor retreat as it is rightly unwilling to surrender hard-earned space to terrorists. As of now, they are sitting ducks, and sitting ducks find it rather difficult to stay motivated for long.

Reports suggest that discussions regarding the Miranshah attack dominated the meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif, which was held on Thursday. An open ended dialogue offer to the TTP, with no sign of success in sight, doesn’t do much for the morale of soldiers or civilians. While there is no arguing with the fact that decision-making powers rest with the elected Prime Minister, it is pertinent for him to remember that his decisions entail direct and indirect consequences for other state-institutions. Therefore, any security policy brought forth by the government has to take into account the possible implications it carries for all relevant parties. The current ‘strategy’ of dialogue appears to be achieving nothing. Do terrorists still refuse to accept the constitution and surrender? Yes. Are attacks on civilians and security personnel still being carried out in cities and tribal areas? Yes. Is the country any safer than it was before negotiations were initiated? No.  

One of the reasons cited for the government’s failure to start the “next phase” of dialogue with the TTP is the infighting between TTP factions. Rival TTP commanders are fighting amongst themselves for more than a month now, and hundreds have been killed as a result. While it is tempting for the government to just sit back and watch, is there anything more that it plans to do in order to really capitalise on the situation? Has the military’s warning to the Haqqani network and Afghan Taliban against supporting the TTP in any way changed the dynamics in FATA? Even if the government is opposed to an all-out operation against militants, there is no reason why it shouldn't take advantage of favourable developments.