TTP's conditions
[Dawn] WHEN is an offer to negotiate not really an offer to negotiate? When it is made by the TTP, it appears. First, Asmatullah Muawiya, leader of the so-called Punjabi Taliban, threw out a surprising feeler: give us a Sharia-compliant (read: the turbans' version of the Sharia) constitution in Pakistain and withdraw support for the foreign-led war in Afghanistan against the Taliban and the TTP may deign to negotiate with the Pak state. Then, the TTP front man, Ihsanullah Ihsan, a man whose proclivity to claim credit for virtually any attack inside Pakistain is matched only by the frightening possibility that he may well be right, endorsed the letter sent out by Mr Muawiya. Now, Hakeemullah Mehsud has appeared alongside Waliur Rehman in a 40-minute video and has been quoted as saying: "We believe in dialogue but it should not be frivolous. Asking us to lay down arms is a joke." The joke, and a distasteful one at that, may well be on the Pak state and society.

In principle, talks with any enemy cannot be written off altogether; in practice, the business of truce and negotiations can be fiendishly difficult, and often counter-productive. The history of negotiations and deals with forces of Evil fighting the Pak state is not very encouraging, and for good reason: the negotiations were not conducted from a position of strength; the enemy was not sincere; and an enforcement mechanism was missing. What that translated into was the turbans' taking advantage of the space afforded to them by the state to grow their networks and solidify their bases. All of this is well known enough. But Hakeemullah Mehsud has laid bare the deeper problems of negotiations with the TTP: their vision for Pakistain is antithetical to the vast majority of Paks' vision for this country. In Mr Mehsud's reckoning, democracy is against Islam; armed militias who challenge the state's authority have a legitimate existence so long as they pull around their shoulders the cloak of Islam; Pakistain should publicly and forcefully work for the return of Taliban rule in Afghanistan; and Al Qaeda is an ally worth dying for.

None of this leaves much room for negotiation. The TTP's charter of demands essentially amounts to a surrender of the Pak state to the turbans. Quite why the forces of Evil have chosen this moment to moot the idea of peace talks is less clear. The kidnapping of Levies personnel from the outskirts of Beautiful Downtown Peshawar
...capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province), administrative and economic hub for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. Peshawar is situated near the eastern end of the Khyber Pass, convenient to the Pak-Afghan border. Peshawar has evolved into one of Pakistan's most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities, which means lots of gunfire.
on Thursday only underscored the once-again rising tide of Islamic militancy. Perhaps the forces of Evil understand that talking about peace will only make the elusive consensus against militancy in Pak society that much harder to achieve.

Posted by: Fred 2012-12-30