Who Heads the Negotiation Table This Time? – Statistics say Definitely Not the TTP

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After being created by Baitullah Mehsud in 2007, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or the Pakistani Taliban, have finally taken a turn towards the negotiation table and this time as a last resort. Over the years, the TTP has done much human and infrastructural damage to Pakistan. Pakistani nation and its soil has witnessed horrendous crimes committed by the TTP over the past many years but instead of looking back and revisiting the pains of the past upon the mention of negotiation attempts every time, is there a way forward? An even bigger question as writing on the wall remains “what is different this time”?
What’s different this time around?
While air is thick with skepticism on Pakistan – TTP talks, the power shift that appeared in this dynamic may need a second glance. Unlike all the previous negotiations that failed to bear any fruit, TTP, in a first, will be negotiating from a position of weakness while the Pakistani government may be moving in to close the deal from a clear position of strength. Mind you that this confidence is neither premature nor challengeable. Many secondary and perhaps tertiary national and regional efforts and/or events can possibly be pinned down as contributing factors to this strategic shift but following few are undisputedly the major ones.
Firstly, though it cost Pakistan blood, sweat and tears of millions of both Armed Forces personnel and civilians, the country has put all cards on the table after fighting a long yet dedicated War on Terror – the cards of victory nonetheless. As we see that wars today have become more and more unpronounced with very vivid indicators to decide win-loss verdicts, the counter terrorism mechanism that Pakistan has developed in over past 3 decades including long fencing has left very little wiggle space for spoilers inside or outside Pakistan.
Secondly, physically, the TTP has been pushed out of Pakistan in a perpetual exile after successfully dismantling of terrorist clusters and its administrative offices. Thirdly, making this development more effective is the timing of government change in Afghanistan. The Taliban regime has shrewdly interpreted shifting regional dynamics effecting the fortune of TTP as well as identified the main fallacy of previous Afghan regimes in their dealings with Pakistan in matters of regional security – lack of trust. Finally, the factor that hyped the desperation of what’s left of TTP is threat of ISIK and the wrath they would unleash on TTP to emerge as the only regional non-governmental almighty entity.
Is Pakistan Really Holding the Cards This Time?
The fact that a government from Afghanistan has approached Pakistan this time to open negotiation tables is proof itself that the tide has shifted in favor of Pakistan. The Illusion that the TTP could still harm Pakistan through remote terrorist attacks was at best perceived as a last desperate attempt at harassment measures by a sinking ship to stay afloat. The entirety of anti-terror operations that spanned over decades unquestionably have left little to no room for such spoilers to pressurize Pakistani government into making any kind of concessions. With the fall of many of the most influential leaders of TTP including Mullah Fazlullah and most recently with the death of Khalid Khurasani, morale of TPP has plunged deeper down. Adding insult to the injury, it has been observed that support for the TTP has somehow reduced significantly. Could it be that with new Taliban regime in power, India is no longer in possession of the leverage it once exploited in Afghanistan in the form of supporting terrorist bodies to engage Pakistan on the long porous Western border for good?
In short, while Pakistan may be seen seated on the negotiation table at the requests of the Taliban regime, TTP is undoubtedly on the run.
What are the Options?
While it is evident that Pakistan may root out TTP from the region with one last punch of the iron fist, owing to the goodwill of Afghanistan and the Taliban regime’s guarantees of ensured mediation, one of the following scenarios may unfold. Firstly, to dislocate TTP’s operational basis from Afghanistan and firm commitment of Afghan regime to their pledge of zero tolerance on misuse of Afghani soil against any country of international community – specially Pakistan. Secondly, extradition of the leftover TTP members to Pakistan to live their lives as law abiding citizens of Pakistan after successful rehabilitation in societal fabric under the elaborate mechanism designed by the government to implement Disarmament, Demobilization and Rehabilitation. Thirdly, Pakistan being compelled to deal a firm hand to safeguard national security as the sovereign right of the country if the negotiations fail.
Having placed its own house in order after decades of Doing So Much More, Pakistan is finally reclaiming its place on the regional map as a South Asian power which has single handedly managed to up the ante in fighting terrorism. Negotiations or no negotiations, with all hands on deck from both civil institutions and security forces, Pakistan will put an end to this regional terrorist pandemic soon enough.

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