(Access the shorter version here in The News)
Recently, Imran Khan proposed the government to allow the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) to open an office like the Afghan Taliban’s in Qatar. Moreover, to pave the road for smooth negotiations, he suggested that the government should immediately declare a ceasefire. Needless to say, these were big statements to make. However, the way he was assailed by analysts was, at least, equally questionable. Those who disagreed with Mr Khan have been at a loss at suggesting any alternative strategies to counter the menace.
For one thing, we – the Pakistanis – are not having a very merry time anyway. The security forces have been on the offensive for about a decade now but the security situation has only worsened. Though, the forces have been diligently working to bring about peace but the desired results have not shown despite elimination of many key figures from Talibans’ ranks and apparently triumphant battles in different places.
Whether the Pakistani government authorises the forces to launch a new offensive or proceeds with the negotiations, either way it is quite uncertain as to which way the balance will swing. Instability may continue with negotiations – but the same applies to war as well. Alternatively, a new all-out offensive can culminate in lasting peace. But so can winning even a few of the main TTP factions to your side through negotiations. In short, there are no clear and easy answers.
Had progress been showing up in the prevailing war, Imran Khan’s emphasis on talks could have been reasonably questioned. But in the current circumstances, giving peace a chance seems like the only viable option. Differences about the timing, scope, frame and nature of talks should not bar negotiations from proceeding.
The war option will, anyway, remain.