One way to guarantee failure in a negotiations process aimed at conflict resolution is to appoint the wrong middleman. It is an especially terrible idea to appoint someone who is most likely to do a wonderful job of being the spokesperson for the opposition, or has vested interests at stake in the process, which directly oppose those of the State. There are few who have mastered the art of shockingly poor decision-making better than the federal government of Pakistan. It stands alone, proud, in a league of its own. The provincial governments have been trying their absolute best to share the glory, but despite coming close, a recent development ensures that the defending champion will retain its title. A report in this paper revealed that the leadership of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), formerly known as Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, has been secretly negotiating on the government’s behalf with smaller, yet effective Taliban groups such as Punjabi Taliban, led by Asmatullah Muaviya.
The logic presented behind this clearly illogical move is that the government plans to appeal to the ‘moderate’ factions of Taliban to abandon the hardliners and come to the table. Once these ‘soft’ Taliban -- who allegedly picked up guns and went on a killing spree only because the inconsiderate State refused to accommodate their unconstitutional and extremist manifesto -- are in the loop, the remaining ‘hard’ Taliban will face serious consequences; ie another offer of peace talks. A few things: this is not the Indian subcontinent of the 1800s, and the PMLN are not British. Hence, divide and rule will not work. Secondly, if the plan is to detach weaker factions from the hardliners, it can be done without the need to involve hardliners themselves in the process, who by rights ought to be right up there on the clean-up list, along with the TTP.
It is choices such as these, appointing hardliners as middlemen, that give the impression that Pakistan is a nuclear-armed state on the brink of chaos. But as far as its ability to employ force and clamp down on criminals and terrorists is concerned, the state still has the capacity to display tremendous strength. Its weakness lies in inaction and a refusal to accept the reality that the time for make-shift arrangements has long passed.
Negotiations only succeed between parties which are willing to compromise; it’s usually a give-and-take affair. What they’re asking for, we cannot give. From them, there is nothing but an unconditional surrender which we seek, and rightly so. In this scenario of an unbreakable deadlock, terrorists and criminals must be brought to their rightful place, deserving of those responsible for the massacre of innocent civilians: behind bars, not in the middle.