TTP Talks Prospects
On Saturday, reports emerged that the Afghan Taliban has expressed optimism that the talks between the TTP and Pakistan government could succeed, in addition to the fact that an indefinite ceasefire has been agreed upon. At face value, such developments are encouraging, however there are still a lot of vague details regarding the contours of a potential agreement.
Certain demands have been tabled by the TTP that cannot be accepted keeping in mind the national interests of the country and its citizens. The TTP has demanded: a reversal of the merger of semi-autonomous tribal areas into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) province; withdrawal of all military presence from the tribal region; enforcement of Sharia Law in the Malakand region of K-P; release of over 100 commanders and fighters; presidential pardon for two key militant commanders; and complete freedom of movement for the TTP members in the Malakand region.
These demands are unviable as they would be tantamount to ceding constitutional sovereignty in these regions to a group that is existentially and ideologically opposed to the country. Moreover, the merger of tribal areas was a landmark decision taken in accordance with the will of the people and the state. Such a reversal would have adverse implications for not only for governance and protection, but also the already glacial process of building state-society relations in what was once a territory neglected by the state and devastated by both terrorism and counterterrorism operations.
The potential release of prisoners should also be made conditional upon the disbanding and liquidation of the TTP and facilitated through rehabilitation and reintegration programs. The government should also take advantage of the fact that families of TTP members are eager to be repatriated back to Pakistan. This should only be made possible on the condition that the group will disband and cease all activities.
A deal in Pakistan’s interest will ensure that there is a complete disbandment and demilitarisation of the TTP. It is imperative that the government takes into account the considerations of marginalized groups, and those that have most been affected by the TTP’s violence.