The government has rightly decided against Mr Sami-ul-Haq’s suggestion of including the armed forces in direct talks with the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The rationale presented for the seemingly innocent proposal was that since the military still holds considerable sway over issues related to national security, its involvement will facilitate the peace process. On several occasions, the TTP has declared Nawaz Sharif’s government to be helpless, claiming real power lies elsewhere. The government can chat over tea all it wants, cut as many deals as possible, but it cannot achieve anything unless the military leadership isn’t on board. Enter Mr Sami-ul-Haq’s well-meaning proposition. What could possibly go wrong if the government was to fulfill TTP’s wish? It’s a long list.

Once part of the government’s negotiation committee, it would be easier to assess the military’s mood and motive. Membership of the committee also means responsibility and ownership of any decision reached therein. It won’t be termed as the government’s failure next time, but also that of the armed forces. And this is assuming that everyone will agree with everything.

Imagine a not-so-unlikely scenario: everyone is agreed on a particular point, apart from the gentleman in khakis. Unlike the civilians in the room, he has strategic concerns which cannot be addressed openly. Here’s the headline the next day: Armed forces stand in the way of progress in the dialogue process, TTP-nominated members of the committee concerned over the government’s lack of control on the subordinate institution. Soon, talk show hosts will jump in with questions like: Is Nawaz Sharif really in charge? Are the armed forces and the government on the ‘same page’? All this internal bickering will further confuse and obfuscate, distracting us from the real enemy yet again.

Remember the sudden aerial strikes on North Waziristan, which were officially backed by the government almost a day later? That may not be so easy to pull off if the armed forces are denied the space which allowed them to carry out the exercise. It is in the government’s interest to keep its security forces unexposed. Only then can they be used as strategic tools in whatever way it deems fit in the future.

There is also the issue of morale. Troops deployed in the troubled tribal areas would find it difficult to comprehend the purpose behind risking their lives, if their superiors were sitting in a room, talking peace with an entity which is fond of beheading military personnel. So, it is safe to say that the government has made the right call. However, one cannot congratulate a driver for avoiding a bump on the road, if he is taking us towards the wrong direction altogether.