Source: The International News
By Hamid Mir
Saturday, February 15, 2014
ISLAMABAD: It was for the first time that a Taliban leader participated in the government-TTP negotiations on Friday through a phone call and promised that the Taliban will seriously consider a ceasefire.
But sources in the government committee fear that enemies of Pakistan will try their level best that the TTP did not announce a ceasefire.The TTP is facing many internal and external pressures for breaking talks with the government and the government is also facing many internal pressures to go for a military operation against the Taliban.
The third time prime minister of Pakistan is facing three big problems with the country’s powerful Establishment in the first eight months of his government.
Nawaz Sharif was lucky to become the first-ever politician in the history of Pakistan who took oath as prime minister for the third time on June 5, 2013 by securing 244 votes in the house of 342. Nawaz Sharif then was able to replace three important office holders in the first six months of his government very smoothly.
He replaced President Zardari with Mamnoon Hussain, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was replaced with Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani and Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was replaced with General Raheel Sharif but these three replacements never helped Nawaz Sharif to exercise his constitutional powers properly.
Nawaz Sharif faced problems with the Establishment in his previous two governments and unfortunately is facing these problems for the third time.The newly-elected government was first embarrassed on the issue of missing persons in the courts. Security agencies ignored the orders of the courts and never presented many detained prisoners in the courts despite the promises made by the PM and Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif.
The Nawaz Sharif government was again undermined by the Establishment when former dictator General (retd) Pervez Musharraf was given refuge in the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC), Rawalpindi. A special court set up for the treason trial of
Musharraf summoned him many times but the former military chief and head of a political party is enjoying an unprecedented hospitality in an army hospital without having any serious medical problem.
Nawaz Sharif was told by his close associates that some officials of intelligence agencies were secretly using some politicians and media persons in support of former dictator and the government should avoid confronting the Establishment on Musharraf’s issue.
But Nawaz Sharif has made it clear to his cabinet members that he was ready to make any kind of sacrifice for the supremacy of the Constitution and he will not bow down to those who are trying to protect a person declared as a usurper by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Nawaz is facing resistance from the Establishment again on the issue of negotiations with the outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The prime minister was reluctant to announce a military operation against the Taliban because the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, run by the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), was not on board. He gave peace a chance and set up a four-member negotiations team.
Initially, there was an impression that the TTP will not accept any talks within the framework of the Constitution and the KP government will be forced to support a military operation against the militants in North Waziristan.
The TTP surprised everyone by accepting that they were ready to talk within the Constitution and never forced the government to enforce Shariah in Pakistan.
The government and the TTP negotiators were very much optimistic a few days ago about the announcement of a ceasefire from both the sides but the recent terrorist attacks in Peshawar and Karachi turned their optimism into a nightmare.
The Taliban claimed that security agencies had killed their more than 35 arrested companions in Karachi, Peshawar and Swabi in recent weeks after the start of the talks and their attack on police commandos in Karachi was a tit for tat response. Their justification is not acceptable to many Pakistanis. All important opposition parties were very much critical about the talks with the TTP on Friday in the Senate and said that the talks and terrorism could not move forward at the same time.
The tit for tat policy of the TTP created problems mainly for Nawaz Sharif who gave peace a chance despite pressures from many sides.
The government and TTP negotiators met again on Friday in Islamabad and made deliberations about the possibility of a ceasefire. Sources in the government and TTP committees were hopeful that they will come up with good news of ceasefire soon.
The government negotiators made it clear to the Taliban committee that the prime minister was not in a position to continue the talks if the TTP was not ready to announce a ceasefire within 48 hours.
During the meeting, one negotiator of the TTP received a call from a senior Taliban leader. The TTP negotiator told him that the situation was very tense here and the government committee was saying that the attack on police in Karachi had compromised the position of Nawaz Sharif.
The Taliban leader communicated with the government committee members indirectly and said they had made only two conditions for a ceasefire, i.e. release of non combatant women and children, and secondly, they wanted the withdrawal of the army from South Waziristan only.
He said the TTP leadership wanted to create a suitable atmosphere in that area for direct talks with the government team. The TTP leader said their two demands were very soft, then why the government was reluctant to accept these demands.
The government committee members responded that first of all the Taliban must stop their attacks. The Taliban leader asked why the government agencies were killing their detained people? The government committee said if that was the reason of their attacks, then they should have discussed this problem with the government committee. “Why are you strengthening the hands of those who are opposing the talks by your attacks?”
Finally, the Taliban leader sought at least two days for consultation and said the Taliban will inform the government committee about their final decision.It was also learnt that the TTP was ready to release Vice Chancellor of Peshawar University Dr Ajmal Khan as a goodwill gesture if the government released their women and children.
The TTP sources say that initially the security agencies will claim that they have no women and children in their custody but they can give the names and also identify the places where they were detained.The TTP sources said they never demanded the release of their male combatants because they knew the limitations of the prime minister. It is interesting to note that the TTP never demanded the withdrawal of army from North Waziristan.
They say: “Let them start an operation in North Waziristan, we will not lose anything we may gain the support of a pro-government militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur.”On the other side, the Establishment is putting pressure on some important government-appointed negotiators to leave the talks committee.
At least, two government committee members were approached by their friends and well wishers in the Establishment for saying good-bye to the talks in the larger national interest.The Establishment is very much confident about the success of their operation in North Waziristan. It seems that the Establishment and the US government are on the same page about the operation in North Waziristan.
One member of the government-appointed committee disclosed that the Establishment was ready to make a peace deal with Khan Sajna in South Waziristan but not with Mullah Fazlullah who is hiding in Afghanistan and who had accepted responsibility for the attack on Major General Sanaullah Khan Niazi last year.
Some close aides of Nawaz Sharif now fear that their government had entered a critical phase. If the government goes for an operation after the failure of the talks, the TTP will respond with suicide bombings in big cities and foreign investors will run away for a long time.
Nawaz Sharif does not want to lose foreign investors who will play a key role in fulfilling his political promises before the elections. The prime minister is determined to continue the talks with the TTP if they announce a ceasefire within the coming few days.