While the political leadership that assembled at the All Parties Conference called by the ANP at Islamabad agreed that solution to the terrorist menace lay in accepting the offer of talks made by the TTP, the military top brass that met the same day, Thursday, reportedly rejected the idea unless the militants laid down their arms and pledged allegiance to Pakistan. Twenty-four political parties, notable among them being PPP, PML-N, MQM, PML-Q, ANP and JUI-F, issued a joint declaration read out by ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, which correctly asserted that militancy was not a problem of one party, one province or one region, but was being faced by the entire country. Holding dialogue with the Taliban and other terrorist groups was necessary to ‘save valuable lives and put the country on track for social and economic development’. However, the declaration affirmed that the solution to emerge out of the talks must be within the ambit of law, security and sovereignty of the country. The APC was the beginning of the process of consultation that the participating parties would hold with the various stakeholders. Answering a question about the rationale of convening the APC at the fag end of the government’s tenure, the ANP leader said that the declaration would serve as a roadmap for the post-election political setup to pursue.
The corps commanders who met under the chairmanship of COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani reiterated their earlier position that the possibility of calling off operation in FATA was linked to two conditions: surrender of arms and pledge to allegiance to Pakistan’s statehood by the militants. The different approaches to the most enervating problem adopted by the political leadership and military establishment apart, the TTP’s own preconditions for talks are unreasonable and cocky. The militant group had sought from the PML-N, JUI-F and Jama’at-i-Islami guarantee for the government to abide by the decisions taken across the negotiating table because it blamed the government for going back on previous agreements. These parties welcomed the TTP offer but none stood any guarantee. Meanwhile comments have come from TTP spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan terming the APC declaration of little importance; for it did not reflect the government’s thinking.
These apparently irreconcilable stands notwithstanding, Pakistan should base its policy keeping the ground reality in mind i.e. the daily fare of terror – the attacks at Bannu and Orakzai on Thursday alone cost 27 lives, including of security men. The US that is winding up the war in Afghanistan after having failed to subdue the insurgents is keen to strike a peace deal with them to demonstrate to the world that it has honourably exited from the scene. However, perhaps the recent attempted attack on Amir Haider Hoti just after this declaration is enough to give pause to both those espousing bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, and those against it.