Taliban “Maneuvers” at Peace Table

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talibanThe Taliban’s (Pakistan Chapter) has lived up to the tagline of unpredictable from the battlefield to the negotiation table. Surrounded by smoke screen, the GOP finally was able to convince all stakeholders that peace shall be given the first slot through negotiations with TTP.
This initiative is undoubtedly a bitter pill considering the loss of over 40,000 civilians and soldiers in the past 1 decade.
With all waves of public sentiment and political will geared toward a meaningful and productive dialogue, I was wondering how parity will be displayed when you have a seasoned team of envoys from GOP taking on individuals who have mastered just one trade, and that stands “conflict”. But it seems that Taliban have learned well from the maneuvers of Pakistan’s political actors and they have shown early signs of mastering this trade as well.
Since the “taboo” of official talks have been undone with Taliban, some interesting yet distressing developments have taken place, putting the Government, Military and the public at large on a rough track leading to the talks on peace. Firstly, Taliban has struck some vital blows as the talks are in their initial stages. This includes the assassination of a top ranking military officer through IED followed by a series of blasts including the deadly twin suicide attacks on a church in Peshawar.
As soon as the eyes started rolling, Taliban were wise enough to create an air of uncertainty by predicting that it wasn’t the parent organization, the TTP which ordered or executed the strikes. Infact it was other fictions associated with Taliban who were behind these attacks. For instance, a video has been released of notorious Taliban leader of Swat Chapter and widely believed to be operating from Afghanistan, Fazalullah celebrating the assassination of the General in Command in an IED strike along with the men who had carried out the strike.
Though Fazalullah has all the reasons to be considered among the top ranks of Taliban, it is also worth elaborating that he and his men are part of the organization Swat Chapter which usually operates on its own. In the second instance involving church which killed nearly 80 worshippers, the claim has been made by Jandullah, which is again projected as an organization sharing TTP charter, but independent towards its actions and targets.
Secondly, the preconditions which initially seemed vague are now becoming more evident. It stands crystal clear that the Taliban has no inclination toward a cease fire or surrendering of their arsenal as they are wise enough to foresee that the bargaining position they have found themselves in comes with these pre requisite. In addition, they would like the military to be pulled out of the Tribal Areas along with the release of prisoners as the first step toward the progressive peace talks. Thirdly, the question of drone strikes by Obama administration has become the nucleus of these developments as nearly all attacks on civilian and military targets gets associated with drone strikes in one way or the other.
Based on this, till now it’s the Taliban who have triumphed in the pre talk’s developments by maneuvering wickedly on multifaceted fronts. By letting other organization claim responsibility for strikes on civilian and military targets, they have successfully planted a second line of defense as they head for talks. The pressure will be maintained through strikes by other groups while the central chapter of TTP will dismiss them as one of their. This was masterly exhibited in their statement that the attack on a church in Peshawar was not their execution, but this goes in line with their agenda and ideology. Toward the withdrawal of troops from Tribal Areas, the government is in no position to provide these discounts to the Taliban, and against all odds if it does, it will definitely prove a wedge between the civil and military cadre. Lastly, the drone strikes as it is well known have moved beyond the reach of Pakistan, especially after Obama has publicly endorsed his policy of unmanned warfare.
Having all this considered, the talks prior to their formal execution have landed on a tight rope, with GOP the biggest loser for the time being. If they go ahead with concessions to the Taliban, this might open a barrage of exploiters in the shape of various groups demanding concessions on similar lines or else barbarianism will prevail. On the other hand if GOP resorts to tighter measures against Taliban, the group will have perfect excuse to walk out and blame the establishment for all the pain in the coming future. Among all this, the resolve for peace with Taliban through dialogue is getting costlier with every incident being carried out, placing substantial question mark over the future of the peace talks.

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