Caught Between US And TTP: Pakistan's Fresh Dilemma

Caught Between US And TTP: Pakistan's Fresh Dilemma

Islamabad is seeking reconciliation with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The TTP has responded rather dismissively to Pakistan’s offer of amnesty. Meanwhile, the US is urging Pakistan for sustained action against all militants and terrorist groups without distinction.

The efforts being made for reconciliation sound rather sketchy because the details of these efforts have not yet been shared with the nation at large. Or perhaps the very initiative itself is at the preliminary stage, therefore, the sketchiness. Or perhaps the nature of the subject is so sensitive that it demands super confidentiality.

It transpires from the recent exchanges of to and fro messages that the Afghan Taliban appear determined to introduce the Sharia in Afghanistan, come what may. And from the response of the TTP to the offers of amnesty by Pakistan, the former too appears determined to introduce Sharia in Pakistan, no matter what the cost in terms of men and material.

Pakistan on its part, it is assumed is determined to preserve and protect at all cost its democratic values and its constitutional norms.

Equally strong resolve is expected to determine Pakistan’s future relations with the US. The PM has made it clear on many occasions that Pakistan would no more fight other peoples’ wars but would certainly join efforts for peaceful resolution of geopolitical problems.

Responding to the offer of the President and the FM, the TTP had made a counter offer: “Pardon is usually offered to those who commit crimes, but we are quite proud of our struggle. We can offer conditional amnesty to our enemy if they promise to implement Shariah in the country.” This means the TTP will continue its armed struggle until Sharia is introduced in Pakistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s offer of talks to ‘some TTP groups’ seeking a reconciliation also appears to have met a similar fate as the TTP angrily retorted  that the Tehreek did not suffer from groupings.

And while answering a question about his offer, the PM conceded to a Turkish TV Channel’s interviewer that the talks “might not reach some sort of conclusion or settlement in the end, but we are talking.” In other words, it seems the PTI government does not feel all that comfortable with the progress so far achieved on this front.

Our policy makers should keep in mind while fine-tuning the offer of amnesty or pardon to the TTP that thousands of Pakistanis have been killed in violence launched in our country by the TTP in the past two decades. The group has accepted responsibility for several high-profile attacks in Pakistan, including an attack on an army-run school in Peshawar in which 134 children were killed in 2014 and an assassination attempt on activist and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai when she was a schoolgirl.

They should also keep in mind that if the Kabul government is continued to be denied for another month or so its frozen financial resources and world-wide recognition, the lightning victory of the AT in August this year could turn into a dreadful debacle sooner than later. The aftermath of such a debacle would lead to surefire chaos with the centrifugal forces taking hold of a collapsing country.

Such a development would surely impact adversely on the regional countries with Pakistan suffering the most damaging consequences in the immediate run as we are in a way Afghanistan’s non- umbilical twin rather than just a typical neighbor.

But even if peace prevails for the time being with the Afghan Taliban comfortably settled in Kabul, the possibility of Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) continuing its cross border attacks inside Pakistan cannot be ruled out despite the Afghan Taliban’s pledge that they would not allow its soil be used to mount such attacks against neighbouring countries.

To understand why Kabul would not force or even persuade the TTP to give up its war against Pakistan, one has to go back to the days when Pakistani Taliban were born. The TTP was formed in 2007. It serves as an umbrella for a number of factions of Pakistani Taliban that were fighting alongside the Al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban against the establishments on both sides of the border since the day the foreign troops invaded Afghanistan to capture Osama bin Laden.

Moreover, why would the Afghan Taliban interfere with the TTP agenda or its actions vis-à-vis Pakistan when what the Tehreek was trying to do in Pakistan was exactly what the Afghan Taliban itself have been trying in Afghanistan over the last 40 years -- which is to establish the Sharia?


Today the Pakistan-US relations are in the dumps. The US government, legislators and the media have begun a process of painting Pakistan as the ‘villain’ primarily responsible for sustaining the Taliban for the last two decades.


And if one were wise enough, one would know beforehand the final fate of these talks even if one were to succeed in arranging them considering the socio-political environment obtaining currently in the two countries. Also, one cannot completely rule out the possibility of an entrenched and at ease Taliban government in Kabul trying actively to support in a year or two from today the TTP in its war against Pakistan!   

That a special comradeship existed between the two --- the Afghan Taliban and the TTP --- became evident when some incarcerated TTP leaders were set free along with its own imprisoned colleagues when soon after entering Kabul the victors opened the gates of the city jail. And when asked if it would, as per its general pledge to the effect, stop the TTP’s attacks against Pakistan launched from its soil, the Afghan Taliban said that it would not, but thought the two sides should  settle their ‘dispute’ bilaterally.

Today the Pakistan-US relations are in the dumps. The US government, legislators and the media have begun a process of painting Pakistan as the ‘villain’ primarily responsible for sustaining the Taliban for the last two decades.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman who will meet with Pakistani officials during her October 7-8 visit has recently called on Pakistan to take action against all extremist groups ahead of a visit to Islamabad, which has sought reconciliation with militants both at home and in Afghanistan.

“We seek a strong partnership with Pakistan on counterterrorism and we expect sustained action against all militant and terrorist groups without distinction,” Sherman told reporters. One could interpret this statement to mean the US wants military bases in Pakistan from where to launch drone attacks against militants in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has assured the international community that it too wants an inclusive government in Kabul and will continue urging the Taliban to fulfil the promises they made to the international community.

And a Brookings report — “The Agonising Problem of Pakistan’s Nukes” — argues that the Taliban victory in Afghanistan has emboldened militants in Pakistan, stirring fears of a resurgence of militant activities in the country.

“The fear now includes the possibility that jihadis in Pakistan, freshly inspired by the Taliban victory in Afghanistan, might try to seize power at home,” the report claims.

Caught between two war mongers --- TTP (for Sharia) and the US (against terrorism) --- Pakistan (no to war) seems to be making an Ostrich out of its being!

The writer is a senior journalist