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Pakistan’s futile exercise—asking wily Taliban to broker peace with the TTP

TTP Pakistan army deal

Though the mutually agreed ceasefire between the Pakistani militant outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Pakistani security establishment will last three months, the Afghan Taliban, the so-called “mediator” now says there should be no fixed timeline.  

"We will continue to mediate in the negotiations between TTP and Pakistan until both sides reach an agreement. We are playing a role in the dialogue between Pakistan and TTP to bring peace to the region,” the Taliban’s spokesperson  Zabihullah Mujahid, told BBC on Sunday. 

Analysts say that both the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistan Taliban or the TTP are walking the Pakistan military along the garden path. “ The objective of the two is the same—the creation of Pashtunistan or a homeland for the Pashtuns on either side of the Durand line.” The Pashtuns see the Durand Line, which defines Afghanistan’s borders with Pakistan as an artificial creation—a colonial era relic, which is blocking their aspiration for a Pashtun homeland.

Mujahid also said that the chief of the UN designated terror group TTP, Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud and his core commanders are at present in Kabul and are  being hosted by the wily interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani. The TTP has raised some impossible demands of Pakistan. These include the implementation of Sharia law in areas under its de facto control, especially parts of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province formerly known as Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). 

Besides, the TTP wants that FATA, a lawless zone where it once roamed freely, is detached from the more tightly controlled KP province formed in 2018.

But according to few TTP commanders, there is growing impatience in many factions of the TTP to continue with the ceasefire as  Pakistani forces have launched military strikes against the group in many parts of the region.  

In a recent message to his factions, the TTP supremo Noor Wail Mehsud reminded them that, “in this Jihad against Pakistan, I’ve lost my father, my brother, and multiple uncles and cousins. Even if I am the least honourable one, I will still take their vengeance,” Noor Wali said in a video clip circulated by the group. 

 Khalid Khorsani, TTP’s senior commander and part of the group’s negotiating team, took to social media to pacify his cadres.

“Negotiations are part of war and resistance.  And ceasefire doesn't mean surrender. Jihad and negotiations are both rules of Allah which will continue in any case.  We inform all mujahideen that the blood of any Mujahid brother will not be wasted.”

According to Pakistani experts, the group is suspicious and does not trust the Pakistani military establishment especially after the Pakistani surgical strikes on their camps inside Afghanistan. 

“The Pakistani army would love to target the TTP chief if they could get specific intelligence. It is the mutual distrust,” says Ali Zia Sayed, a Pakistani analyst.  

Pakistani establishment’s main problem is the way  Noor Wali has managed to reorganize the various groups under the TTP umbrella. He has reorganized by embracing Jamaatul Ahrar, Hizbul Ahrar, Amjad Farooqi Group, a faction of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi sectarian outfit, Moosa Shaheed Karwan Group, Mohmand and Bajaur Taliban, the Lal Masjid-famed Ghazi Brigade, and Punjabi Taliban. Some of them might be motivated by an ideological cause, while others are lured by money and prospects of a higher social status.

Many in Pakistan including the partners of the coalition government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that the TTP and the Taliban are both playing a double game and so far, outsmarted the Pakistani establishment. 

“The TTP is not in a weak position. Even if there is a deal, it will not survive for long because the TTP does not have a strong motivation to end the conflict with Pakistan,” said Anees Gilani, a Pakistani lawyer and human rights activist. 

A Peshawar-based Pakistani journalist, who does not want to be identified said that “these talks show that the TTP was never defeated. It was protected by the Afghan Taliban, who have always been supported by Pakistan’s security establishment.”

With that previous agreement’s failure to bring “peace” and with certified terror groups sponsoring and facilitating the ongoing talks, many are questioning why Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government is talking to the TTP at all or “is the government bypassed by the army?”

Also Read: Setback to Pakistan as Taliban rejects Army’s plea to arm-twist TTP