Apart from unanimity of views of the participants of the APC on dialogue with TTP as the first option, the resolution issued at the conclusion of the moot also contains two very significant points;  an unequivocal resolve of all the stakeholders to fight the war on terror through the ways and means deemed essential to serve the national interest without accepting any dictation from US or any other country. This was followed by the recommendation to raise the issue of drone attacks at the Security Council in case they are  not discontinued by the US.

These declarations in fact echo the sentiments of the people of Pakistan to regain the surrendered sovereignty and challenge the continuation of drone attacks within our territory by the US at an appropriate international forum, instead of relying on repeated and ineffective protestations through diplomatic channels. It marks a discernible departure from the previous disposition of following the dictates of US with regards to fighting terrorism which invariably cast Pakistan in a subservient role.

Another very significant related development is that contrary to the reports about reservations of the Army leadership on the proposed dialogue with the TTP, all the stakeholders are on the same page. The COAS has cleared the haze with a categorical statement in the APC that it was the prerogative of the political leadership and the government to decide policies and extended the assurance that armed forces would implement any policy formulated by the government. It is nevertheless pertinent to mention that previously the Army did have some reservations regarding talks with the TTP leadership and that probably was the cause for non-implementation of the resolutions adopted at the earlier APCs and Joint session of the Parliament, which also emphasized the importance of dialogue for rapprochement with the militants.

The change of heart by the Army leadership is a sequel to an incessant interaction of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with them and intelligence agencies during the last three months and bringing them around to his stance of giving peace a chance through dialogue as first priority. On the political plank also, he has made concerted and relentless efforts to remove reservations and misgivings of those who had different ideas to deal with the obtaining situation. His success in evolving a consensus approach deserves appreciation.

He has a vision of his own and a well considered strategy to go about it. Resolving the issue of terrorism within the country through dialogue was one of the pivot of his election campaign and the people by electing him to run the state have reposed full confidence in him to winch the country out of the quagmire that it lies embedded into. Therefore, he has an unquestionable right to implement his vision. His government could have taken a decision on its own to initiate dialogue with TTP but he preferred to take all the stakeholders on board and evolve a strategy which had unqualified backing of all of them. The other political parties and Army leadership also deserve appreciation for throwing their weight behind the government and authorizing it to initiate dialogue with the TTP.

The offer of dialogue has gone well with the TTP, indicating that the ice has finally started melting. One of the major factor that has prompted the TTP to welcome the offer of dialogue is the backing of the initiative by the Army which has sent an unequivocal message to the Taliban that this time the government was serious and committed to give a chance to the negotiated solution of the conflict. The TTP has always regarded Army as its enemy fighting for the cause of foreign invaders and pursuing a policy of subduing the Taliban movement through military might.

While the outcome of the APC is being widely hailed as a positive and credible step towards the solution of the scourge of terrorism, there is no dearth of its detractors who are expressing doubts about the success of new peace offensive citing unreliability of the Taliban, their division in operationally independent outfits, absence of unity of command, their record of not honouring the agreements reached with the government and above all the lack of clear cut agenda to hold negotiations with them. There is some merit in their argument but that is not a cogent reason to suspend the efforts designed to break the stalemate. The country cannot afford to remain stuck in the past. The ground realities are fast changing. US is on the verge of pulling out from Afghanistan and our government is single-mindedly supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan owned solution to the war in that country. It has recently released seven Taliban leaders on the demand of Afghan government made during the visit of Hamid Karzai to Pakistan to nudge the process of reconciliation in Afghanistan.

Peace in our country is inextricably linked to  the end of conflict in Afghanistan and if Pakistan succeeds in facilitating a negotiated solution to the ongoing hostilities between Taliban and Karzai government and other factions, that would also have positive impact on efforts to surmount terrorism within our own territory. TTP regards Mullah Omar as their spiritual leader and have strong links with Afghan Taliban. God forbid if the dialogue option does not deliver, the government still has the right to go for other options and the APC resolution does not preclude those possibilities.

The writer is a freelance columnist.