Wednesday, Oct 05, 2022

Pakistan: Government Working On Contingency Plan If Talks With Pakistan Taliban Fail: Report

With reports of Taliban fighters being seen in the Swat Valley, the authorities are preparing a 'contingency plan' to deal with the threat if talks fail.

Represented image
Represented image AP/PTI

The Pakistan government is preparing a "contingency plan" to deal with the potential resurgence of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as Pakistan Taliban, as finalisation of a peace deal does not appear to be hopeful, according to a media report on Friday.

The Express Tribune newspaper reported that the talks between Pakistan's tribal council leaders and the TTP being in Afghanistan reached a deadlock after the militant group refused to back down from its demand for the reversal of the merger of erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

On Wednesday, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif expressed apprehension about the success of the talks. Pakistan’s special envoy for Afghanistan Muhammad Sadiq had admitted the peace process was at a ‘nascent stage’.

Although the government has been holding talks with the TTP for months to broker some kind of a deal, prospects of such an agreement are grim, sources familiar with the development told the newspaper.

With reports of some Taliban fighters being seen in the Swat Valley, the authorities concerned are preparing a "contingency plan" to deal with the militant threat in case talks with the TTP collapse. Authorities have not closed the window of talks with the TTP, but they are at the same time ready to deal with any eventuality, the newspaper said.

Sources said the primary reason Pakistan entered into talks with the TTP was that the Afghan Taliban were reluctant to take any military action against the outfit responsible for a number of high-profile terror attacks, the report said. Instead, the interim Afghan Taliban government was keen on Pakistan and the TTP to resolve their differences through talks.

Pakistan began negotiating with the TTP not out of choice but out of compulsion, according to the sources.

During one of the in-camera briefings given to the MPs, the military leadership had said talks were in an initial phase and any deal with the TTP would be strictly in accordance with the Constitution and law. An oversight parliamentary committee was also set up to look into the negotiating process.

The TTP is an alliance of militant networks formed in 2007 to unify opposition against the Pakistani military, according to the US National Counterterrorism Center, which adds that its stated objectives are the expulsion of Islamabad's influence in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the implementation of a strict interpretation of Sharia throughout Pakistan.

The peace talks began in October last year but picked up pace in April when there was a renewed push from the Afghan Taliban seeking a peace deal between Pakistan and the TTP.

A series of meetings with the TTP led to the indefinite ceasefire but differences on many contentious issues still persist. 

One of the TTP leaders Omar Khalid Khorasani, who was part of the negotiating team, was killed apparently in an IED blast in Afghanistan. He was believed to be the hardliner and was insisting on the reversal of the erstwhile FATA reforms.

It remains to be seen if his death will have any impact on the negotiations as well as TTP’s demands on the FATA merger.

It is believed that Pakistan is trying to exhaust all available options before resorting to any other steps to deal with the threat posed by the TTP.

The Afghan Taliban government is in a fix as it is reluctant to take any action against the TTP but at the same understands the importance of Pakistan.

With the recent killing of al-Qaeda chief Aymen-Al-Zawahiri in Kabul, the Afghan Taliban government has now come under increased pressure to cut ties with terrorist groups. Zawahiri’s killing has diminished the chances of the Taliban getting recognition from the international community in the foreseeable future. If the issue of the TTP remains unaddressed, the Taliban may antagonise Pakistan, which has been their main advocate for seeking legitimacy for the current government in Kabul.

Defence Minister Asif said that the government was aware of the reports about the TTP regrouping in Swat district and that the relevant authorities were in constant touch with Afghanistan on this matter, the report said.  

A United Nations report earlier this year termed TTP a "persistent security threat" to Pakistan and called chances of peace bleak.

(With PTI inputs)