Federal Information Minister Pervez Rashid has said that the government still wants to talk with the Taliban for peace in the country and region. In an interview during a visit to the Nawa-i-Waqt Group offices on Saturday, he said that the use of force only made the situation more complicated. He also said that if talks could be held in Doha, they could also be held in Islamabad. He was referring to the recent attempt, now failed, by the USA to talk to the Taliban in Doha, and also to the offer, since withdrawn, of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to talk to the government. These statements from the Information Minister come after Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif’s visit to the ISI headquarters on Thursday, and then the Interior Ministry on Friday, in order to create a consensus on the government’s National Security Policy. The minister’s statement indicates that the tactic that Mian Nawaz wishes to adopt is trying to convince the military that their preferred strategy of use of force goes against the government’s policy, promoted in the election campaign, of engaging the TTP in talks.

Naturally, the government wishes to ensure restoration of the law and order which is an essential ingredient for the “economic explosion” it promised in its campaign. But the military and the government are not of one mind when it comes to how to tackle the threat from terrorists and extremists. The government takes the political solution of talks as the only one, and the military feels such forces cannot and must not be negotiated with unless from a position of strength. The natural inclination of politicians against using force, combined with the urgency with which the government is attempting to find a solution to the energy crisis, shows that Mian Nawaz is possibly following the Bill Clinton mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid.” However, while loadshedding is a drag on the economy, so is uncertain security. If the government is to improve the economy, it will have to solve both issues. There will be no improvement of the economy if there is no curtailment of the terrorism that has made investors decide against Pakistan. There should be no doctrinaire decisions about how to handle terrorism.

Instead, the decisions to end this menace must be pragmatic and result-oriented, as must be the policy on which it is based. It is the responsibility of the government not only to create an atmosphere in which no one is allowed to disturb law and order, but also to set a policy which will ensure this, while ensuring that such a policy has the backing of all stakeholders. Alternatively, seeing the Pakistani Taliban’s newfound interest in Syria, it is proposed that a one-way ticket for a few planes full of jihadists may be purchased and the TTP dispatched to fight the Bashar Al-Assad regime; where they will find themselves to be NATO allies, not enemies.