Riding high on the back of a comfortable majority in the National Assembly, the would-be Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif has clarified his stance of putting an end to the war on terror through talks with the Pakistani Taliban. He believes talks are the best option to restore peaceful conditions in the country. Observing that the offer of the TTP in this regard should be taken seriously, he has moved ahead and established contact with Maulana Sami-ul Haq, heading Dar-ul Aloom Haqqaniya, asking him to facilitate the process of initiating negotiations with them. The Maulana has reportedly advised Mian Nawaz that if he were to falter and accept foreign agenda, he would fail like the previous rulers and assured him that the Taliban considered him like their “father” and would cooperate provided there was sincerity on the part of the Pakistan government.

COAS General Kayani who must be on board if talks were to make any headway has also spoken about the Taliban phenomenon, though in a different context. Addressing a meeting where representatives of 28 countries had gathered together to discuss how to overcome the challenge posed by IEDs (improvised explosive devices), he proudly stated that by coming out to vote in large numbers Pakistanis successfully defied the Taliban’s threat of disrupting the elections. It is understood that the militants would have to lay down arms, starting in Tirah Valley, if talks are to take place.

It is pertinent to note here that reaching a peace deal with the TTP is a highly complex affair. On their original agenda of punishing Islamabad for its help in the war on terror, they have raised a superstructure of their own narrow and impracticable interpretation of Islam that they want to be enforced in Pakistan at all costs, and through violence and intimidation as has been their primary goal. Terming elections un-Islamic was a reminder of their intent to ‘Islamise’ Pakistan. Furthermore, it is quite evident that the Taliban enjoy financial as well as material support from sources, both known and unknown, within and outside the country. And as the past more than 11 years have shown, not just in Pakistan, but also in the experiences of NATO troops in neighbouring Afghanistan, it is difficult to quell them with the use of arms and even the greatest military might, the US, has been obliged to take the course of talks. But it is also a question whether the TTP stands weakened and is looking for a face-saving deal, or whether it is just looking for another opportunity to knife Pakistan in the back. They must be compelled to lay down their arms before their offer is even considered. Both the civilian government and the armed forces would have to devise a joint strategy about parameters of the talks. Let us hope that neither our government nor our armed forces will endure any weakness in Pakistan’s position, when negotiating with terrorists, who recognize neither the state, nor sanctity of life, nor the freedoms which are essential for us to live the way of life we consider best to adopt.