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The Dawn

Published Date: Feb 11, 2014

Experts divided over govt.-Taliban talks

It seems the nation is divided over the ongoing negotiations between the government and the outlawed Taliban.

Some people in the country are in favour of the dialogue but others
believe that a military operation is the only way to deal with the
militants.

The same trend was witnessed at a discussion on ‘Taliban negotiation
process: can contribute to peace’ organised by the Sustainable
Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Monday.

Speaking on the occasion, former ambassador Ayaz Wazir said it was
strange that the government had been emphasising holding talks with
Taliban under the Constitution which was not functional in the Federally
Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) where the militants were based.

"We say parliament is supreme but it cannot do any legislation
regarding Fata. It is a positive gesture by Taliban that they are
willing to negotiate with the government under the Constitution of
Pakistan," he said.

In the ‘90s, Fata was the most peaceful area in Pakistan. In October
2001, the United States attacked Afghanistan but even then Fata remained
peaceful.

The problems started in 2003 after the military operation in the area, he said.

He added that the army had used all kinds of weapons, including
gunship helicopters and artillery, in the area but it seems there will
be no end to the war.

Issues should be resolved through negotiations and the government
should provide basic necessities of life to the people of Fata, he said.

"The government has been spending billions of rupees on military
operations in Fata. Had 50 per cent of that amount been spent in Fata
during the last 67 years, there would have been no issue in Fata," he
said.

Defence analyst Retired Lt-Gen Talat Masood disagreed with Mr Wazir
and said the name Sharia was being used to bypass the Constitution and
democratic process.

"It is a way to capture power without entering into the electoral
process. Those who believe in Sharia never behead people. There is a
very complex situation and we are facing the consequences of past
policies," he said.

“The demand to remove the armed forces from Fata is illogical. The
armed forces are present in all the provinces and it is their job to
guard the borders. We have to establish the writ of the state,” he said.

MNA Nadeem Afzal Gondal of the PPP said Pakistan fought the US war
against Russia in Afghanistan and termed it ‘Jihad’. Mosques were used
to convince people that they should participate in the war.

"The Kalashnikov culture was deliberately introduced in the country
and even after the end of the war Mujahideen were used to sabotage
negotiations between India and Pakistan. The government is still not
ready to tell the names of countries and groups who are funding the
Taliban," he said.

Mr Gondal said Pakistan should develop cordial relations with its neighbours.

He alleged that some media houses were also projecting the Taliban for their own interests.

JUI-F spokesman Jan Achakzai said a local conflict resolution mechanism should be adopted to address the issue of militancy.

He added that if negotiations with the Mehsud tribe, which
constituted a significant proportion of the foot soldiers engaged in
militancy, succeeded, there would be a way forward in stopping the
insurgency.

Media analyst Zahid Hussain wondered how the government can negotiate with an outlawed organisation.

"Even if negotiations are successful, who will ensure the
implementation of the agreement? Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has
been demanding winding up of democracy and release of militants involved
in killing of thousands of people," he said.

"If Taliban are serious about peace, they should stop violence rather
than announcing a ceasefire. The government should understand that the
TTP is not the representative of the people of Fata as the residents of
the tribal areas have also been suffering because of the Taliban."